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OF THE Deep 







COPyRIGHT. 1903. 




" The tales of that awful, pitiless sea. 
With all its terror and mystery. 
The dim, dark sea, so like unto death. 
That divides and yet unites mankind. " 

Longfellow. — Golden Legend, 

" Winds that like a demon 
Howl with horrid note, 
Round the toiling seaman 
In his bonny boat," 

*MONG the many wonderful changes 
wrought in the various conditions 
of life by the progress of scientific 
investigation and modern achieve- 
ment, there are none so complete 
as those affecting the man of the 
sea. The swift journey to Europe has 
become an affair of so little moment to 
many that it is hardly thought of until 
Jand fades from sight, and the modern 
traveler sets out on his voyage around 
y/ the world with less trepidation than 
the Roman poet felt and described, 
when he left his native city for the 
short journey that carried him across a 
narrow sea into temporary banishment. It is dif- 
ficult, then, for us to realize the terrors which the 
ocean possessed for the ancient mariner — almost 
impossible for us to understand the implicit belief which he 
evidently held in the many monsters, fiends, physical dan- 
gers and curious phenomena fhat would now only serve to 
provoke laughter or astonishment. 

Not only was the sailor in ancient times exposed to 
greater sea peril by deficiencies in the construction of his 
vesse.l, but, in addition, his imagination created a host of 



fancied dangers to terrify him. The dangers of the sea 
voyage are often portrayed by classical writers. Horace, in 
his third ode, "in lamenting the departure of Virgil for 
Athens, paints these terrors in vivid colors; speaking of 
horrid sea-monsters and terrific waves, Andocides, accused 
before the courts at Athens, said, " The dangers of accusa- 
tion and trial are human, but the dangers encountered at 
sea are divine." 

"Sea voyages among the Egyptians were looked upon 
as sacrilegious." * 

Nor did these imaginary terrors disappear with antiquity. 
The first charts had portrayed on them numbers of huge 
monsters, horrible dragons, and terrific giants, scattered here 
and there like the ships marked on charts of more recent date. 

The land-locked ocean known to the ancients had been 
filled with unknown terrors, and the distant lands bordering 
on it, with wonders and strange inhabitants. Monsters abode 
in the waters, gods of monstrous shapes ruled them, en- 
chanting sirens, horrid giants, and terrible dragons inhabited 
the islets and rocks, and on the dry land beyond, there 
dwelt strange enchantresses, fire-breathing bulls, dwarfish 
pigmies, and man-eaters. The crude ideas concerning geog- 
raphy, making the earth now a disk, now a drum, a boat 
or a flat surface surrounded by water, aided in perpetuating 
to later ages these curious beliefs. 

Thus sailors as well as landsmen, in all ages, have been 
prone to indulge in fancies of all kinds concerning the 
winds and waves. Such notions are naturally directed to 
the weather, the object of so rhuch care and solicitude to 
the mariner. 

In antiquity, the Great Ocean was thought to be unnavi- 
gable. Flowing around the world like a river, it became, 
as we shall see, a river, then a sea of death. 

This circumambient ocean was not peculiar to the 
Greeks. We find it in other cosmogonies, as the Norse and 
Arab geographers, about 1300, revived the idea. 

As men became more and more acquainted with distant 
waters, their ideas concerning this unknown ocean ex- 
panded. At first it was the Central Mediterranean in 
which were located all the Homeric dangers of the ocean. 
This was gradually extended to the westward, and finally 
into the Great Western Sea, after the French discovery of 
the Canaries (1330). 

* Mure.— Hist. Gr. Ut. 1, p. 17. 


Another thing assisted the growth of the myths of sea dan- 
gers and perils. Many ancient tribes feared and detested the 
sea, as do some castes of Hindoos at the present day. Early 
navigators, when driven by stress of weather or impelled by 
love of gain or adventurous spirit beyond the usual limits, 
reported such things of the unknown seas, that others were 
often deterred from following in their footsteps, and thus 
profiting by their discoveries. To these tales we owe many 
of the myths of sea and wave; others are doubtless em- 
bodiments of religious belief, or explanations of natural 

It is thus with the first great sea epic — the Odyssey.* 
In its entirety it probably embodies a myth, but its details 
are undoubted traditions of dangers encountered or related 
by early mariners. 

At first, then, these Homeric sea perils lay no farther 
west than the Sicilian isle. But gradually they were re- 
moved toward the setting sun. Scylax says the Straits of 
Gibraltar are the end of the world, and ships can navigate 
no farther. 

Later traditions perpetuated this idea, even after ships 
had ventured beyond these gates. Edrisi,| an Arab writer, 
says there was at Gibraltar a stone pillar, one hundred 
cubits high, with a brass statue on it, arid an inscription 
stating this to be the limit of navigation. 

So El MasudiJ says these pillars of King Hirakl carried 
an inscription warning mariners that no vessel could safely 
venture beyond into the sea of darkness. 

Ulysses tells Dante § that he had tried the voyage 
beyond these pillars, and had perished in sight of a mon- 
strous island, " for out of the new land a whirlwind rose, 
and smote upon the fore part of the ship." Thus of the 
region beyond. And more yet. 

II Carthaginian sailors said that the South Atlantic be- 
yond Cerne was not navigable because of floating seaweed 
and shallows. Herodotus says Sesostris was stopped by 
shallows in the Red Sea, which was long thought dangerous 
because of its red color. To the time of Columbus these 
fancies prevailed, and his crew were terrified on entering 
the Sargasso Sea by the weeds and calms. 

♦Keary.— Outlines of Primitive Belief. 299. 

+ Geoffraphy.— In Jaubert, Kes. des Voyages. 

*Golden Meadows. (ftW A.D.) Ch. XII. 


II Soylai.— PeriplQS 112. 


Plato * had long before said that whole continents sank 
into the Atlantic, and had rendered it so shallow that it 
was difficult to navigate. 

Sataspes, a noble Persian, condemned by Xerxes to cir- 
cumnavigate Africa, reported that he could not, saying that 
his ships were stopped by the mud in the shallow ocean.f 
Pytheas, the early Massilian explorer, reported that the 
neighborhood of Thule was a mixture of mud and air, re- 
sembling jelly-fish, where one could neither walk nor sail. 
This reminds us of the Magonia, or cloud-sea of the Middle 
Ages. Plutarch says a ship could with difficulty advance in 
the sea to the west of Great Britain. Athenseus says the 
Western Ocean is dense by reason of its saltness, sea-weeds 
and huge beasts; Aristotle and Seneca speak of the calms 
and muddj'^ shallows of the ocean. 

Himilco,J the early Carthaginian navigator, was stopped 
by sea-weeds and monsters on his voyage to Cornwall. 

" He looked to where, amidst the seething waves, 

Were thickets vast, of dense and loathsome weeds 
Which held his ship, nor scarcely let it float. 
In ocean's depths, but held it buoyed up." 

§ It was afterward reported of St. Amaro, a mediaeval 
saint, that he was encompassed by sea-weeds in the Western 

The ne plus ultra of Portuguese mariners was long at 
Cape Nun. I ^ 

"Whoe'er would pass the Cape of Nun, 
Shall turn again, or else be gone." 

These southern waters were, in popular belief, unnavi- 
gable, and the bold mariner venturing beyond the **equator 
would be turned into a negro. 

After the Canarv- Islands were discovered, a giant was 
figured standing on them, brandishing a huge club, and 
threatening all who should venture further westward. 

Later, the Arabians represented the huge hand of Satan 
as rising out of the water ready to seize any one venturing 
out on the Sea of Darkness (Mare Tenebrosum) as the At- 
lantic was then called. 


+ Goodrich.— Man Upon The Sea. p. 69. 

X Festus. A vlenus, m Heeren. Com. Af . Nations. 

SHerrera Hist, del Almirante, c. 19. 

I Goodrich.— p. 115. 

« Goodrich,— p. 16. 


After Gonzalez and Vaz,* in 1418, had discovered Porto 
Santo, they feared to advance farther, terrified b}'' the dark 
cloud hanging over Madeira, and it was only after much 
urging, and amidst the terrors of their crews that they 
finally reached that island. 

The sailorsf of Pinzon's fleet were terrified at the absence 
of the pole-star on crossing the equator in 1499. 

So the first adventuresome navigators brought fabulous 
accounts of the inhabitants of the lands visited by them, 
such as the land where dwelt the Lotus-eaters, and where 
the tree grew whose fruit 

i" Which whoso tastes 
Insatiate riots in the sweet repasts. 
Nor other home nor other care intends, 
But quits his house, his country, and his friends; " 

and the more terrible Cyclopean land, the cave and island 
of Calypso, and JEx, the abode of Circe, — 

■■ A dangerous coast! the goddess wastes her days 
In joyous songs; the rocks resound her lays." 

These were in the narrow Western Mediteranean, and 
the Cimmerian Land of Darkness lay beyond, pictured in 
the following words by Ulysses, — 

§" When, lo! we reach'd old Ocean's utmost bounds. 

Where rocks control his waves with ever-during mounds; 

There, in a lonely land and gloomy cells, 

The dusky natioi) of Cimmeria dwells. 

The sun ne'er views the uncomfortable seats. 

When radiant he advances or retreats." 

These dangers, whether fancies of the brain or real tra- 
ditions, of impediments to navigation, were ever present to 
the Greek and Roman sailor. 1 

There were the Sirens, too; — 

" Their song is death and makes destruction please." 

These fabled daughters of Achelous and Calliope had 
'charmed all navigators until Ulysses approached the coast, — 

j " And lo! the Siren shores like mists arise; 
Sunk were at once the winds; the air above 
And waves below at once forgot to move; 
Some demon calmed the air and smoothed the deep, 
Hush'd the loud winds, and charmed the waves to sleep." 

•Goodrich.— Man Upon the Sea. p. lU. S Pope's Odyssey. Bk. xi. 
+ Goodrich.— Man Upon the Sea. p. 165. I Pope's Odyssey. Bk. ix. 
i Pope's Odyssey, Bk. xii. 


These charmers were anciently represented as having 
the bodies and wings of birds, with the face of a beautiful 
maiden. Ceres had given them wings to aid in her search 
for Proserpine. 

* " With golden wings o'er foamy waves you fled." 

I AppoUonius thus describes them: 

" And fallacious shew 
A virgin face, white-wing'd like fowls they flew; 
On a bright eminence the charmers stand. 
And watch the vessels as they tug to land; 
Full many a mariner their songs betray, 
Who lists and lingers till he pines away." 

The oracle condemned them to die when a man should 
pass without stopping. Ulysses, warned of the danger, 
stopped his ears with wax, and safely passed them, bound 
to the mast. So they were changed into rocks, off Sor- 
rento, where they still exist, a terror to mariners. J Another 
legend says they became rocks because Orpheus surpassed 
them in singing. 

The sirens were three in number, and their names betray 
their nature: § Ligea is harmony, Leucothea is white, and 
Parthenope is virgin face. The latter was buried at Naples, 
according to later tradition, and the city was first named 
after her. They were especially venerated on the south- 
west coast of Italy. Pliny sa)'s Dinon,|| Clearchus' father, 
asserted that sirens existed in Indian waters, and lulled 
mariners to sleep by their songs. 

In antiquity they were never maidens in form, but in 
later times they became confused with the nereids, and were 
given a fish-tail and green hair. 

These seductive forms, while typifying in the Odyssean 
voyage the usual idea of death, doubtless received their 
characteristic nature from natural phenomena. They repre- 
sent the white and shining surf, whose harmonious mur- 
murs and seductive brightness allures, but destroys the 
mariner who attempts to land (for this is always required for 
the success of the spell). 

Eustathius' saying that their song stills the wind, and 
Homer's lines, given above, indicate the fact that after the 
rushing wind, comes the sound of the sighing surf, only 
growing in the calm that ensues. 

* Ovid'e Metamorphoses. § Cox.- -Aryan Mythology. 

t Argonaatics. — Fawkes' Tranp.IV, 1055. I] Landrin.— Les MonstreeSfarins, 261- 

i Cox.— Aryan Mythology, Bk. ii, 245. 


It is the same with the Cyclops, those terrible one-eyed 
monsters that nearly destroyed the crew of Ulysses' ship. 
Their names betray their meaning. Brontes* is the roll, 
Steropes the flash, and Argis the whiteness, of lightning, 
and they represent the Storm-fiend, whom we shall again 
encounter, raising hurricanes and tempests against the 
mediaeval mariner. 

Polyphemus f is the stormy sky, and his one eye is the 
sun (Kuklos — a circle); or it is the weather-gall (Ochsen- 
auge, CEuil de Bceuf) still seen by sailors, a clear spot in a 
cloudy sky. 

So the gray-haired Graije and the snaky Gorgons were 
doubtless, say modern mythologists, figurative representa- 
tions of the white-capped and angry waves. 

But further tales were told of unmistakable maritime 

The trembling Argonauts feared the moving Symple- 
gades, fabled to crush ships passing between them. The 
waves dashed up the Cyana, so as to endanger passing 
ships. Two similar wave-beaten rocks on the Illyrian 
coast were also reported to threaten destruction to the 
passing ship. Festus says that the waves dash upon the 
rocks at the Canaries with so much violence that it is 
dangerous to approach, and the islands tremble from the 

The poet of the Argonauts again speaks: 

X "Two rocks will rise, tremendous to the view, 
Just in the entrance of the watery waste. 
Which never mortal yet in safety passed; 
Not firmly fixed; for oft with hideous shock 
Adverse they meet, and rock encounters rock." 

Here, too, a literal interpretation is impossible, while we 
may allege a rational foundation for the myth. Lubbock 
says it is possible that in these moving islands we have a 
tradition of the floating ice-masses, which, in the glacial 
period, must have issued from the Black Sea. But we' 
must not forget that we are talking yet of mythical voy- 
agers, and are considering another soul journey, or sun 
voyage — this time to the eastward and not west mto the 
Sea of Death. These rocks are the gates of hell, t)'pified b}' 
the moving cloud-barrier to the sun's journey. We learn 

tKeary.— Outlines of Primitive Belief. 307. 

*Cox.— Aryan Mythology, Bk. ii, oh. ill. 

t Appollonius Ehodius, Argonautica.— Fawkes' Translation. II, 438. 


from comparative mythology that similar opening and 
shutting rocks are encountered "by the soul-bark in Mexi- 
can,* Burmese,! and Mongol J legends. Fiske,§ then, 
rightly interprets the myth: "In early Aryan mythology, 
there is nothing by which the clouds are more frequently 
represented than by rocks or mountains. Such were the 
Symplegades, which, charmed by the harp of the wind-god 
Orpheus, parted to make way for the talking ship Argo, 
with its crew of solar heroes." 

So a rock, said to have resembled a woman in form, 
was, traditionally, Scylla, daughter of Typhon, changed 
into the rock-monster with twelve feet and six barking 
dogs about her waist. In this locality, says Homer, — 

I " Here Scylla bellows from the dire abodes: 
Tremendous pest, abhorred by man and gods. 
Hideous her voice, and with less terrors roar 
The whelps of lions in the midnight hour." 

Twelve feet, deformed and foul, the fiend dispreads. 
Six horrid necks she rears, and six terrific heads; 
Her jaws grin dreadful, with three rows of teeth, 
Jaggy they stand, the gaping jaws of death." 

And Virgil, — 

" But Scylla from her den, with open jaws, 
The sinking vessel in her eddy draws." 

Greek artists never pictured so horrid a monster, whose 
portrait here drawn might serve for a poetical description 
of the devil-fish of Victor Hugo's narrative. 

One** pictures her as woman to the waist, fish below, 
with a fish head and snout below the waist, horned and 
toothless. In another representation she is figured as a ter- 
rible woman with a fish-tail, under which are sea monsters 
who seize three men. Others show her a woman with a 
fish-tail, and dogs at her waist. Virgil, Lucretius and Sta- 
tius place her with Cerberus and the female Centaurs at the 
gates of hell, so here we again find repeated the gates of 
hell with Scylla on the one hand and Charybdis on the 
other. It was death by drowning, the most terrible of all, 
that awaited the ancient mariner who was engulfed in 

♦Torquemada, Monarquia Indiana. XIII 47, in Tyler, P. C. 

+ Jour. As. Soc. of Bengal, 1865. P. ii, 233-4. 

tGesaer Chan.— Bk. iv, in Tyler, P. C. 

S Myths and Jfj'th-makfM-s. 

UPope's Odyssey, Bk. lii. 

** Bianchi.— Mytholog)- of Greece and Rome. 


these dangers, and beyond lay hell. So here were the gates. 
Nor was the real physical element of danger wanting in 
this representation. 

These dangers are located by Plutarch at the straits of 
Messina, where we find to this day a formidable whirlpool, 
and its opposing wave-beaten rock. So the tale of some 
venturesome sailor was deftly woven into the mythical soul- 
voyage by the ancient singer, as other dangers, perhaps as 
real, had served as instruments for his muse. These dan- 
gerous rock monsters are not uncommon in maritime 
beliefs. In fact, every dangerous rock had its legend to the 
ancient and mediaeval navigator. So early navigators called 
the Bermudas the Devil's Islands, because of the storm- 
fiends supposed to haunt them; and a Hell Gate exists on 
our own coast. 

* Two rocks near the Cornish coast are called the 
Parson and his Clerk. The story goes that they sold 
themselves to the devil, and move about occasionally as 
his steeds. ^ 

The parson exclaimed to his clerk who had misled him: 
" I would rather have the devil for a guide than you! " The 
devil appeared and changed them into stone. 

Cornish legends declare that if anyone landed at a rock 
called the Ness, near Westray Firth, with iron about him, 
the rising and dashing waves would endanger him, until the 
iron was thrown overboard. Iron controls the water fiends, 
so would be supposed efficacious against them here. 

A rock dangerous to ships was removed to a point nearer 
the shore by St. Baldred, and is still called by the name of 
St. Baldred's boat. 

f Indians believed that a rock in Corlear's Lake was 
under a spirit's control, and that when the waves dashed up 
he was angry, and so they sacrificed to him. Offerings are 
made to a dangerous rock in a river in North Africa, and 
Indians offered tobacco to appease the spirit of the Missis- 
sippi, at a rock in the upper river.J 

The Delawares § showed Marquette a steep rock in the 
river, swept by powerful currents where the evil spirits tried 
to wreck their boats. 

Natives of Hawaii feared to approach a certain rock, 

' Bo ttreU.— Traditions and Fireside Storiea of West Cornwall. 

■tSee Chapter xi. 

t Losklel.— Indians of North America, p. 145; 

8 Brinton. — Myths of the New World. 


Kaveroka, where a jealous husband threw his wife down the 
cliff, deeming it hatinted, and that their boats would be 

Beliefs similar to these existed concerning other dangers 
to navigfation. Whirljxxsls were long an object of dread to 
the smaller vessels of antiquity. The mariner escaping from 
ScyUa's rocks, was threatened by the whLrlp>ool of Charybdis, 
famed as the transformed thieJF of Hercules' oxen. It was 
thus seen by Ulysses. 

* ■ ' Close by a rock of less enormous height 

Break the wild waves, and form a dangerous strait; 
Full on its crown a ng's green branches rise, 
.\nd shoot a leafy forest to the skies-: 
Beneath, Charybdis holds her boisterous reigo 
'Midst roaring whirlpools, and absorbs the main, 
Thnce in her griifs the boiling seas subside. 
Thrice in dire thunders she refunds the tides." 

The fig-tree ser\'es as a landmark to avoid the abyss. 
This was more dreaded than Scylla, for JEneas is told, — 

f "' Ahl shun the horrid gulf! by Scylla ny. 
Tis better six to lose, than all to die. " 

The Syrtes, on the African coast, were also regarded with 
^ear and jiread. Appoilonius savs: 

J"' Burst from iis black abyss, the boiling liood. 

Upheaves its shaggy- weeds, involved in shoals of mud. 
With the far spreading spray the sands arise." 

Early Xo.-se li^ends represent whirljxtols as the boiling 
kettle of Hymer, a sea-god. 

In Austrian tales they are spirits of evil. Strudel and 
WirbeL St. Bruno is said to have narrowly escap>ed the 
clutches of one of these at Ben Scrudel, on the Danube, 
being warned in time by an angel. 

The devil's mother came on earth to reside near here, 
and a fine palace was built for her, but she coveted di\-ine 
honors, so her dwelling was swept into the river and over it 
is Ben Strudel.5 St. Bruno, in another tale, sailing with 
Henrv III., heard a voice saying. ■■\^~hither art thou travel- 
ing? Thou s'nalt saii wi'h me :o-nig"nt! " He was killed bv 
a rafter of the house, while at a banquet that night. 

"Pope's Odvssev. Bk. xii. 

- Dryden's JEneid. m. 

; Argonautics.— Fawkes" Tratis. IT 145S. 

S See Chapter viiL 


*Beattie tells us of Ben Strudel: "The first sight of 'his 
used to create no little excitement and apprehension on 
board. The master ordered strict silence to be observed, 
the steersman grasps the helm with a firm hand, the pas- 
sengers move about, etc. Each boatman with head uncov- 
ered muttered a prayer to his guardian saint." 

The devil is also said to exhibit false lights in an old ruin 
near Wirbel, and decoys ships to their destruction. 

The great Maelstrom has been the subject of various 
stories, although but one of many celebrated whirlpools. It 
was once thought to be a subterranean abyss passing into 
the centre of the earth. We are reminded by this legend of 
" Symmes' Hole," the theory of a latter-day genius, that the 
waters rush through from pole to pole, f The Saermundr 
Edda tells us that Mysing, the rover, carried off two maidens 
grinding corn with a quern, Grotti. While at sea, they con- 
tinued their task and ground salt until the ship sank; the 
ocean was made salt, and the quern still continued its mo- 
tion, causing the great whirlpool. 

Pentland Firth was the fabled location of this great 
whirlpool, but it was variously placed, now in the Faroe 
Islands, now on the Swelkie near the Orkneys. It is situated 
near the Loffoden Islands, on the Norway coast. 

J In a folk-tale, "Why the Sea is Salt," a captain buys 
this quern of an old man who got it from the devil, and sets 
it grinding. It grinds what he wishes, but when he sets it 
to work grinding salt, it fills the ship full, sinks it, and makes 
the sea salt. Another version says the quern was given to a 
younger brother by the devil in exchange for a shoulder of 
beef, and he can always obtain food from it by the charm: 

' ' Grind both malt and salt. 
Grind in the name of the Lord. ' 

His elder brother cozens him out of the treasure, puts 
to sea with it, but forgets the charm, and says: 

" Grind both malt and salt. 
Grind in the name of the Devil," 

when it fills the ship, sinks it, and thus makes the sea salt. 
But there is no mention of the maelstrom in the folk-tales. 

•Wm. Beattie.— The Danube, in Conway, Deinonology, I., p. 115. 
+ Gratta Song.— Saeraundr Edda, In Thorpe I., p. 208. 
t Dasent.— Tales of the Norse. 


Olaiis Magnus * gives another legend of the great whirl- 
pool. " The whirlpool or prister, is of the kind of whales, 
two hundred cubits long, and verj' cruel. This beast hath 
a large and round mouth, like a lamprej', whereby he sucks 
in his meat or water, and will cast such floods above his head 
that he will often sink the strongest ships. He will some- 
times raise himself above the sail)'ards, and cruelly over- 
whelm the ship like any small vessel, striking it with its 
back or tail, which is forked, wherewith he forcibl)'^ binds 
anv part of ship, when he twists it about." He says a 
trumpet frightens it, but a cannon-ball is of no use, by 
reason of its great rampart of fat! ! 

Palsgrave, an old English etj'mologist, defines thus: 
"Whirlpool — a fissche — chaudron de mer — chauderon — 

Earl)' accounts all grossly magnify the terrors of this 
whirlpool. It can endanger no ship of any size, but when 
at its height would probably engulf a boat As to the 
quern, it is the sun, the mill of the summer god' Fre3'r, that 
grinds food from the earth. 

Drayton tells us that, — 

f " One Nicholas of Lyn 
The whirlpools of the sea did come to understand. 
For such immeasured pools philosophers do agree 
r the four parts of the wind undoubtedl}' there be. 
From which they ha%-e supposed Nature the winds doth rain, 
And from them, too, proceed the flowing of the sea." 

Nicholas was an Oxford scholar who maintained these 
absurd beliefs. 

El KazwiniJ tells us that a ship was embayed near a 
certain whirlpool in the Persian Gulf. One man was chosen 
by lot for sacrifice, and was left on a desert island near by, 
when he successfull}' conjured the demon of the place b\- 
beating a drum, and the ship then safely emerged from her 

In Russian legend,^ a whirlpool exists over ever)- Vod)-- 
anny's (water-sprite's) house. An offering of bread or salt 
must be thrown in to appease the spirit of the place. 

Man)' Indian traditions relate to whirlpools. | Marquette 
and Joliette relate that they saw Indians at various times 

' History of the Goths (1(»S)- 

•tPolyolbion nffiSi. 

t Marvels of Creation. 

§ Ralston. — Songs of the Russian People. 

t Loskfel. — Indiana of North America, 1-45. 


offer sacrifices to the spirit of whirlpools in rivers. An 
eddy in the upper falls of the Mississippi was thought to be 
haunted by a demon, to whom sacrifices were made. Ca- 
nadian Indians thought the spirit of a drowned man 
haunted an eddy, and that it drew down sticks that were 
thrown in. 

In Mexico, children were offered to TIaloc in a whirl- 

The bore, that sometimes is found in tidal rivers, has 
been the subject of many fancies. 

f A bore on the southwest coast of Ireland is called the 
avenging wave. A man killed a mermaid here, and the 
wave suddenly rushed to engulf him (the next time he 
ventured out); and so each time until he was drowned; and 
it even chases his descendants, the story tells us. 

The bore that occurs in the mouths of some rivers has 
been thought a demon or dragon. Its name. Eagre, is 
thought by some to be a corruption of Eagle.\ The 
Egyptians had a tradition that that bird caused whirlpools 
in the Nile, and the Phoenix was fabled to appear with the 
inundation. § Chinese fire cannon-balls at the bore in 
Canton river, while some shoot arrows. A certain gov- 
ernor, not succeeding in these methods, threw himself in, 
and_ exists as a water-spirit. The bore at Hangchow is 
thought to be caused hy a spirit. 

The bore is called Hygra in Gloucester and in the 
Humber.|| Blind ** thinks this a corruption of ^gre, 
from Qigir, the Norse sea-god. Carlyle says: "Now to 
this day, on the river Trent, the Nottingham bargemen 
call it ./Egre. They say, 'Have a care; the .^Eger is com- 
ing.' The older Nottingham bargemen had believed in the 
god CEgir." It is so named by Drayton in " Polyolbion." 

A legend of St. Patrick says the waves are caused by 
serpents, which that redoubtable saint inclosed in a box, 
when he cast them out of Ireland. 

If we are to believe modern mythologists, breakers are 
often personified in Greek tales as wild bulls, and the 
exploits of heroes, from Perseus to St. George, are, most of 
them, traditions of the defeat of waves beating on the coast. 

' Bancroft.— Native Races, vol. iii. 

+ Jones.— Credulities, 8. 

to. Massey.— Book of tbe Beginnings. 

8 Dennys.— Folk-lore of China. 

I Brewor.— Header's Handbook.— Hygra. 

•• Contemporary Review, ISSl. 


*A Norse tradition reports that the noise of waves on a 
certain beach is the whisper of an old king and his queen, 
buried in mounds near there. The "moan of the sea" at 
Elsinore, in Denmark, is said to portend death, or to "want 
some one." 

In "The Fisherman," Phoebe Cary says: 

"And I hear the long waves wash the beach, 
With the moan of a drowning man in each." 

In Moray Firth, the fishermen call the noise of the waves 
"the song of the sea."f The sighing noise of a wave on 
the coast of Cork is believed to portend the death of some 
great man. 

So,J not more than thirty years ago, the hollow, mourn- 
ful sound of the waves on the coast of Cornwall was said to 
be a spirit, Bucca (Puck), and foretold a tempest. 

The sound of the Ndsjoir, or death wave, of Icelandic 
legend, was said to resemble the struggles of a dying man. 

The waves are still called in French " Moutons " (sheep), 
when whitened by the coming breeze. § So in Ariosto, — 

"And Neptune's white herds low above the waves." 

So, in Scotland, the waves preceding a storm are " dogs 
afore the maister"; those following, "dogs ahin' the mais- 

El Masudi || tells us the Arab sailors believed that the 
"blind waves," or high seas of the Abyssinian coast were 
enchanted, and they said verses to charm them, as they 
were lifted up on them. 

Cambrj'** says the inhabitants of Finisterre divined 
events by the movements of the waves. 

Fishermen on our own coasts call the swell sometimes 
seen during a fog, the fog-swell, and believe it is caused 
by the fog. It is really the swell caused by the incoming 

An idea long existed that the ninth or tenth wave was 
greater and more powerful than others. This belief existed 
in Ovid's time, who says,ff " The wave that is now coming 

* Dasent.— Popular Tales from the Norse. 

+ Kennedy.— Fireside Stories of Irelond- 

J Hunt.— Romances and Drolls of the west of England. 

% Hoole's Translation. 

IGQl4en Jfeadows, 954 A.D. Bk. I, Ch. X. 

** voysige Dans )a Finisterre. 

ti;'='aHll. 1,11,50. 



o'ertops all the others; 'tis the one that comes after the 
ninth and before the tenth." T\\& fluctus decumamms, or tenth 
wave, was then preferred. 


Allatius* writes thus, during a voyage from Messina to 
Malta, " I saw the captain, who was accounted an experi- 
enced and skillful mariner, standing at the bow, while he 
muttered and pointed at something with his finger. I ap- 
proached, and inquired what he was doing. The old man, 
with a cheerful countenance, answered, ' I am breaking the 
force of a "fatal wave, and am making the sign of the cross, 
and saying the prayers proper for the occasion.' I said ' Do 
you, then, know, amongst all these waves, which is the fatal 

'Allatius.— De Greeeorum Hodle qimndonim opinatlonlbus (1645). 


one ? ' ' Yes,' he said, 'by so many waves by which the ship 
is tossed, none but the ninth can sink it/ And as the ship 
was immediately driven more violently, and the water sud- 
denly beat high over it, 'This,' said he, 'is the ninth, take 
the number count on.' Strange it is that every ninth wave 
was much greater than any of the others, and threatened 
the ship with immediate destruction. This wave, however, 
whenever it approached, the captain, by his muttering and 
signing of the cross, seemed to break, and the danger was 

Forbes* says the ninth is thought the greatest wave by 
the Hindoo boatmen. The Welsh bard, Taliesin,f refers to 
it as greatest. An old Welsh sea-poem says the dead are 
buried "where the ninth wave breaks." In a Bardic story, 
" a fleet is destroyed by the ninth wave." WelshJ fishermen 
called the ninth wave the " ram of Gwenhidwy," the other 
waves her sheep. 

Sir Thomas Browne § refutes the tenth wave superstition. 

11 Tennyson thus speaks: — 

" And watched the great sea fall 
Wave after wave, each mightier than the last, 
'Till last, a ninth one, gathering half the deep, 
And full of voices, slowly rose, and plunged, 
Roaring, and all the wave was in a flame." 

Hone** says: "A common affimation is that the tenth wave 
is the greatest, and always the most dangerous." In an 
account of the loss of the ship " Fanny," in this century, the 
tenth wave is said to have risen above the rest. A modern 
novelist ff says, "Our fishermen (in England) call it the 
death wave, not always the ninth." In a late tale, a sailor 
says: " I made de sign of de holy cross, an' de wave broke 
before it reached us." Xt 

In Scotland a distempered cow could be cured by being 
washed by nine surfs. In the trial of Margaret Ritchart, 
witch of the eighteenth century, we read of the further 
efficacy of the water from the nintli wave.§§ " Go thy way to 
the sea-syd, and tell n}fne heave of the sea cum in, that is to 

*Orientiil Memoirs. 

+ G-. Massey. — Boole of The Beginniuf^s. 

t Brewer.— Readers' Han'^ Book. 

g Vulvar Erroi-s, 1B44. Bk. VI, 27. 

1 Holy G rail 

" Gregor. —Folk-lore of Scotland. 

++Mary C. Hat. 

KCnpt. HtUl.— Adrift in ibe Ice Fields. 

6§ The JLancashire Witches. 


say, nyne waves of the sea, and let the hind-most go of the 
nyne back again, and the nixt theraifter, take three looffuls 
(spoonsful) of the water, and put within the stoupe, and 
quhen thou comes hame, put it in thy kime, and there will 
get thy profit back again." 

* There is a belief among Shetland fishermen, that water 
out of the " third die," if gathered up, had great medicinal 
and mischief-working power. So old fishermen believed 
they could find their way in a fog by their knowledge of 
" da moder-die," or wave tending toward land. 

Icelandic f fishermen say there are three great waves 
that follow in succession, in which boats should not be 
launched. These waves are called Oldg, and boats should 
put to sea in the Idg, immediately following them. Should 
a boat's crew be wrecked in the operation, they say a great 
calm comes over the sea, called Dauthaldg (death's calm), 
during which other boats are safe. Breakers called Naoldur 
(death's breakers) are often seen at sea, redder or bluer 
than the surrounding waves. When two of these waves clash 
together, they make a sound called " death's clash," and 
portend wreck. 

These curious beliefs have no foundation in fact. It was 
doubtless noticed that there were waves greater than those 
preceding and following, but no regularity can be observed 
in these. The mystic numbers three, nine (3 x 3), and 
ten, were not unusually chosen when any doubt existed. 
Massey thinks the idea is connected with the nine months 
or ten moons of gestation, and the new birth or resurrection 
thus typified. We need not, however, go so far as this in 
our imagery. 

The tides, those mysterious pulsations of the ocean, have 
been the theme of many curious speculations. 

JAristotle and Heraclitus say they are caused by the sun, 
which moves and whirls the winds about, so that they fall 
with violence on the Atlantic, which thus swells and causes 
the tides. 

Pliny § believed in tides of extraordinary height. Pytheas 
said they were caused by the increase of the moon, and 
II Plato accounted for them ps caused by an animal living 
in a cavern, which, by the means of a mouth or orifice 

* K. Blind.— Contemp. Review, September, 188a 
+ Maurer.— Islandiscne Sagen. III^ pt. S. 

t Plutarch.— Morals. Goodwin's Trans., Vol. IIT. 

§ Bk. II., Ch. 99. 

1 Plutarch.— Morals. Goodwin, Vol. lU. 


causes the alternations of ebb and flow. He also says th< 
winds, falling from the mountains of Celtic Gaul into th( 
Atlantic, causes a tide. * Seleucus said that the motion o 
the earth and moon produce a wind, which, pressing on th( 
Atlantic, causes a tide, f Vegetius says they are a natura 
movement of respiration of the sea. 

J El Masudi records the Mediaeval beliefs among ihf 
Arabs. He says some think them caused by the moon'; 
heating the waters so that it swells and rises higher; others 
that the)' are caused by vapors generated in the bowels o1 
the earth; others, that its movements were like the tempera- 
ments of men, without rule and reason. Others said they 
were caused by the alternate decomposition of the sea by the 
air, and of the air by the sea, thus causing the ebb and flow. 

§ Brunetti Latini, in the 13th century, said the tides are 
caused b}- the efforts of the earth to breathe. This had 
been asserted in antiquity, and refuted by Pytheas. St. 
Jerome says they come from caves by a law of Nature. 
II Bede (the false) says they are caused by a great serpent 
which swallows and vomits the water. 

** Another old author says they are caused by the ice 
melting at the poles. 

ffBlind says Shetlanders believed they were caused by a 
monster living in the sea, or in the words of an old fisher- 
man, " a monstrous sea-serpent that took about six hours 
to draw in his breath, and about six to let it out again.'' 

J J The Chinese believe that supernatural beings cause the 
tides, and Japanese legends of the " ruler of the tides," still 

§ § The Malay Nias say they are caused by the move- 
ments of a huge crab. 

Ill Respect to the god Somnath causes the tides, say mod- 
ern Hindoos. 

*** Michael Scott, the great wizard, was popularly said to 
have controlled the tides. He sent a man to run on the 

♦Plutarch.— Morals. Goodwin, Vol. III. 
+ In9t. E. Millt, 

t Golden Meadows, 954 A.D. ch. XI. 
i Tresor. 

11 De Mundi Constitutione in Theo. Martin Notices des AncieoB, sur la mar^, 

♦* B. de St. Pierre, Enides dc la nature. 

tt Contemporarr Review, September, 1882. 

$$ DennvE>— Folk-lore of China. 

85 Rosen berg.— Q, in M61usine, November, 1884. 

OTarikh Mahmud in Panjata Notes nud Queriea. 1—1436. 

•*♦ Conway^-DemOnology and Devii-Iore. I., 118, 


banks of the Wambeck, the tide following up, so long as he 
did not look behind. Terrified by the noise of the advanc- 
ing waves, he disobeyed the injunction, and the tide stopped. 

In Russia the tides are popularly said to be controlled 
by the water king's daughter. 

There is a superstition in many places that people die 
on the ebb of the tide. This is as old as Pliny, who says, 
♦"Aristotle says that no animal dies except at the ebb of the 
tide." He further says it has been proven true only as regards 
man. Dickens alludes to this notion in "David Copper- 
field." So, in another part of England, it is believed that a 
child born at the rising of the tide will be a male, and in Scot- 
land,! good wives set eggs for cocks at flood, for hens at ebb. 

I At Hull, in Cornwall and in Northumberland, it is be- 
lieved that people wait for the tide. So Shakspeare makes 
the hostess say of Falstaff, — 

§ " 'A parted even just between tvvelve and one, even at 
the turning o' the tide." 

I Marryat thus chronicles the belief. " Dr. Mead has ob- 
served, that of those who are at the point of death, nine out 
of twelve quit this world at the turn of the tide." 

** "In Brittany death usually claims his victims at ebb." 

ft On Cape Cod, and in many other districts along the 
New England coast, it is firmly believed that a sick man can 
not die until the ebb tide begins to run. Watchers by beds 
of sickness anxiously note the change of the tides, and if 
the patient lives until the flood begins to set in again he will 
live until the next ebb. The most intelligent and best ed- 
ucated people born and brought up on the New England 
coast are not entirely free from this superstition, and to 
them there is a weird meaning in the words of Dickens in 
describing the death of Barkis: " And it being high water, 
he went out with the tide." 

Water spouts, destructive to the smaller vessels formerly 
used, have always been objects of dread to the mariner. 

They were called Prester§§ b)- the Greeks, whence prob- 
ably the name prister, used by Olaus Magnus for the whirl- 
pool. Lucretius says: 

*Bk. II., Ch. lOL 

•^ Gre,Eror. — Folk-lore of Scotland. 

t Choice Notes, p. 104. from N <t Q. 

5 Kin^ Henry V. Act il, scene 3. 

i Kinj?'9 Own. 

*• L. de Sauve In Melusine, September, 18S1. 

+t Boston Transcript, 1885. 

K Jones.— Credulities, p. 77. 


" Hence with much ease, the meteor wc may trace, 
Termed from its essence, Prester by the Greeks." 

* Pliny sa3's of it, calling it Typhoon, " It may be counter- 
acted by sprinkling it with vinegar when it comes near us — 
this substance being of a very cold nature." 

El Masudif thus reports beliefs current in his day: 
"There are Timmins (dragons) in the Atlantic seas. Some 
believe this is a wind arising in a whirling column from the 
bottom of the sea. Some say it is a black serpent rising in 
the air, and succeeded by a terrible wind; some that it is a 
terrible animal living in the bottom of the sea; some sa}' 
they are black serpents, passing from the desert into the 
sea, and living five hundred years. Abbu Abbas says the}' 
are killed in the clouds by cold and rain." 

J Especially were the)' objects of superstition in the Mid- 
dle Ages, as is manifest from their popular title, " dragons 
de mer," or sea dragons. Various ways were adopted of get- 
ting rid of these troublesome visitors. Cannon-shot were 
fired into the solid column. P. Dan, in his " History of 
Barbary " (1649), says that custom was even then followed, 
and it has been continued to much later times. He also sa}'s 
it was conjured away by presenting a black-handled knife 
placed at the extremity of a mast or spar, repeating prayers, 
signing the cross, etc., meanwhile. John of Brompton tells 
us,§ "Another very extraordinary thing happens once in 
every month of the }'ear, in the gulf of Salato; a great black 
dragon is seen to come from the clouds, and puts its head 
into the water, and its tail seems as though it were fixed in 
the sky; and this dragon "drinks up the waters so greedily, 
that it swallows up along with them any ships that maj' 
come in the way, along with their crews and cargo, be thej- 
ever so heavy. And those that would escape the dragon, 
must, as soon as they see the dragon, make a great noise, 
with loud shouting, and beating on the deck; and when the 
dragon hears the tumult and the shouting, he will move off 
to a distance." 

II Pere Rene Frangois also tells us: " Dragons of the sea 
are very great whirlwinds that will sink a ship, which they 
pass over. The sailors, when they see them coming afar 

»Nat. Hist.— Bk. II., Ch. tl. 

+ Golden Meadows, 964 A.D. Ch. XII. 

t Aubin.— Dictionnaire de JIarine, 1702. 

I Chronicle in Angl. Scriptorium. T.rlor P. C, I., 265. 

IMerveiiles de La Nature, in Jal. Glossaire Nautique, " Dragons." 




off, raise their swords, and beat them against each other in 
the shape of a cross, holding that this causes the monster 
to flee from alongside. * The weather was thick and we 
went spooning towards Gardafu, when suddenly we saw a 
shape like a black and thick cloud, falling at some distance 
from us into the sea. One of our Greeks from Chios, took 
his sword and said several prayers with the sign of the 
cross, and commenced to hack at the deck, from which he 
cut two or three pieces. . . . There were some Indian 
gentlemen who took their alfanges or scimiters, to defend 
themselves from this restless demon." 

f So B. Crescentio: "This column, pillar or water spout, 
the sailors, credulous in infidel things, and firm in their 
faith, hold that it will disappear by taking a knife with a 
black handle, and saying the evangelist of St. John, and the 
Pater Noster, without saying " et in terra," etc., and by 
making three crosses in the air, and at every cross sticking 
the point of the knife in the side of the ship." 

I Purchas chronicles similar beliefs: "Often they see 
come . afar off, great whirlwinds, which the mariners call 
dragons; if this passeth over their ship, it breaketh them 
and overwhelmeth them in the waves. When the mariners 
see them come, they take new swords and beat one against 
the other in a cross, upon the prow or toward the coast 
from whence the storm comes; and liold that this hinders 
it from coming over their ship, and tumeth it aside." 

§A little later Thdvenot is an eye witness of such a scene. 
" One of the ship's company kneels down by the mainmast, 
and, holding in his hands a knife with a black handle (with- 
out which sailors never go on board for that reason), he 
reads the gospel of St. John, and when he comes to the 
words, ' Et verbum carne factum est et habitant in nobis,' 
the man turns toward the waterspout, and with the knife 
cuts the air toward that spirit, as if he would cut it; and 
they say then, it is really cut, and lets all the water fall 
with a great noise." 

II Pere Dan is also a witness. After hearing an account 
of the terrors of the approaching monster: "This account 
gave us very great alarm, and sent us to our praj-ers, and 
insomuch as we were told by the sailors that in such 

* Lea Voyages du Sieur Vincent le Blanc, 1569, in Mjlusine. hr 1881—181. 

+ ]^autica Mediterranea, 1637, in Jal. Gloss. Nautique, " Dragons." 

t Pilgrims, 1646. 

9 Travels.— 1687. 

I History Barbary, 1649, In Jones' Credulities, p. 77. 


extremity they were accustomed to recite the evangelist 
of St. John, that commences ' In Principio,' etc., I said them 
very loud, and we perceived, a little after, that the meteor 
melted away." 

*When this failed, two men fought with black-edged 
swords, making them cross. In one of Columbus' voyages, 
passages from the " Evangelist " were read to dissipate a 

fAubin says Catholic mariners say the "Evangelist," 
and others pray to dissipate them. He says some think 
them water drawn up by the sun, and sailors think they 
presage great storms. 

These curious ideas with regard to the waterspout were 
not confined to sailors, nor to the middle ages. 

J We read in the Arabian Nights: "The sea became 
troubled before them, and there arose from it a black pillar, 
ascending toward the sky, and approaching the meadows; 
and, behold! it was a JinTiee of gigantic stature." 

§ Greeks of the middle ages called these phenomena 
Prester, and thought them a fiery fluid, because lightning 
and sulphurous smells sometimes accompany them. 

I Wainaku Africans told Dr. Krapf of a great serpent 
that arose like a column from the sea, bringing rain. In 
mythology** and folk-lore, the rain is often figured as a 

A Finnish legend says the waterspout is Vidar, a water- 

f f Chinese and Japanese say these phenomena are caused 
by dragons, and affirm that they have been seen going up 
and down in them. Drums and gongs are beaten to dissi- 
pate them. Japanese call them tatsmaki (spouting-dragon).JJ 

Falconer in the "Shipwreck," and Camoens in the "Lu- 
siad," allude to firing cannon at them. Russian peasants 
pretend to dispel whirlwinds by cutting the air with crossed 

The twisted column was readily imagined a serpent or 
dragon, and the name endured after the conception of the 
animal nature of the meteor was lost. Doubtless can- 

* Jones.— Credulities, p. 78. 
+ Dictionnaire de Marine, 1T02. 
t Lane.— Arabian Nights, Vol. I, 30-7. 
§ Jones. — Credulities, p. 77. 
! Krapf.— Travels in Africa, p. 198. 
**Golahizer. — .vf vthologT Among the Hebrews. 
++Doolittle.— The Chinese. IL 283. 
JtKaempfer.— Japan in Pinkerton, VIl, 681. 


non were at first fired at them, for the same reason that 
gongs were beaten, and swords clashed together to terrify 
them — and not with the modern idea of breaking the 

There were various other things imagined of the sea. 
From it came all the universe, according to the writer of 
Genesis, where we are told the earth was without form, but 
"darkness moved upon the face of the waters." Geology 
has proven that the sea at one time covered much of what 
is now dry land; and bones of extinct sea-monsters, alluded 
to in another chapter, have been found on inland plains, 
and even on high table-lands. Not only the Hebrews, but 
other nations held these same ideas.* "The theory of a 
wet origin is traceable in Vedic, Assyrian, Hebrew, Greek, 
German, and other cosmogonies," says Blind. According 
to Pherecydes and Thales, the sea was the first of all 
elements. A Frenchman f wrote a book to prove that not 
only the earth, but the entire animal and vegetable king- 
doms, came out of the ocean, in which existed the egg of 
all creation. | Shakspeare hints that the sea is the origin 
of dew. 

From the ocean came many of the gods, and in the 
ocean was their abode, as we shall see in another chapter. 
So in it was, in many beliefs, the heaven or the hell. 
Esquimaux placed there the better of their two heavens; 
there Typhon and man}"- demons abode, and there, as we 
shall also see, in middle-age belief, lay purgator}' and para- 
dise. Nastrand, the Norse shore of the dead was there, and 
there the Taouist placed his sixth court of hell. 

So from the sea came riches and knowledge, as well as 
living beings.§ From it arose Cannes, Hea, Quealzcoatl, 
Viracocha, Manco Capac, Bochica, apd other primitive 
heroes, who brought the arts and sciences with them. 
Lakshmi, the Hindoo Venus; Kama, the Cupid; Aphro- 
dite, and Viracocha sprang from the foam of the sea. In 
Greek mythology, semi-divine heroes are the offspring often 
of a sea-steer, a river-god, or a stream, and many heroes are 
descendants of the Oceanids. 

There is a Buddhist legend that living beings were 
created out of sea-foam. Pierre de San Cloud || says Adam 

* Scottish and Shetlandic Water-e:ods, Contemporary Review, Augrist, 18S2. 

-IM. Maillet. — Telramund. 

t Antonv and Cleopatra. Act iii.; scene 2. 

S See Ch. II. 

II Baring Gould.— Legends of Old Testament Characters. 


and Eve created animals from the sea by striking it with 
rods — the former bringing forth beneficent animals, the 
latter evil ones. 

In Norse legend, the sons of Borsford, a primeval giant, 
find two pieces of wood floating, and from them form man 
and woman. 

The sea-animals and its fabled inhabitants are wise and 
beneficent, powerful and malignant, and the marvelous rich 
hoard of the Niflungs was robbed to furnish the wonderful 
quantities of gold brought to man by the mermaids and 
water-sprites of story and song. 

Perhaps in this Niflung hoard is typified the close con- 
nection of the water and fire cult, and at the same time the 
antagonism between the lunar and solar worships often 
observed in antiquity. Blind* shows many things in sup- 
port of the first: "This hoard is probably but the phos- 
phorescent color of the sea-foam. Poseidon and Amphi- 
trite dwell in golden palaces beneath the seas; and the 
sea-hall of the mer-lady's offspring, Grendel, glowed with 
fiery glimmer. From the lakes and marshes comes the 
fire-drakes, or the will-o'-the wisp, and the wonderful St. 
Elmo light, and fiery dragons; Loki and Apollo, both sun- 
gods changed to fish. Aphrodite weds Hephaistus, fire- 
worker; Indus is fire and water-god; Varuna also. Fire 
controls water," etc. To these hints we may add that the 
sun in antiquity was supposed to rest at night in the ocean, 
and here, doubtless^ is the cause of the splendor of these 
sea-palaces, and the hoard is stolen splendor from the lord 
of day. 

These ideas also illustrate the fabled regenerative 
powers of the sea. The animals of the sea were also fabled . 
to possess great regenerative powers, and the fish early 
became a phallical animal in folk-lore. The efficacy of 
sea-water in the rites of baptism has been stoutly main- 
tained, and its medicinal character and virtues often cele- 

This worship of water and this belief in it as the origin 
of all things is a natural one, and is very ancient. The 
early Aryans saw no difference between the waters of the 
air and the streams of the earth, and from adoring the sky 
and its many gods it became easy and natural for their 
descendants to worship the sea and its fancied gods, and to 

* Contemporary Keview, September, 1883. 


fear it in its anger and propitiate its demons. From the 
primitive conception of the sea itself as a god, it was but a 
step to the notion that it was ruled by its resident deities, 
who must be worshiped and propitiated. 

Water containing all the germs of development, in it the 
future must be hidden; and thus we find its gods and its 
residents empowered to know the future. Thence arose a 
belief in the indications of waves and other natural phe- 
nomena, instances of which we shall often encounter in 
these pages.' 

But the mariner was more nearly concerned in the winds 
that raised these mighty waves and meteors, and the resources 
of his arts and prayers were expended to obtain favorable 
breezes, to allay the storm, or dissipate the calm. His prin- 
cipal deities had most to do with the winds that either 
brought him good fortune, or wreck and disaster. 

Gods of the wind have ever been powerful divinities. 

* " In the polytheism of the lower as of the higher races, 
the wind-gods are no unknown figures. The winds them- 
selves, and especially the four winds in their four regions, 
take name and shape as personal divinities, while some deit}'^ 
of wider range, a wind-god, storm-god, air-god, or the 
mighty heaven-god himself, may stand as compeller or con- 
troller of breeze and gale and tempest." Neither time nor 
space can here be allotted to an extended study of the 
mythologj"^ of the winds, a subject ably treated by Cox, 
Brinton, Tjdor and others, but it is pe.rtinent to our pur- 
pose to give some brief account of the wind-gods, their 
powers and attributes. 

Legends of the winds are so numerous, that a volume 
would scarcely contain them. We shall see the appearance 
of the spectre-ship and of the St. Elmo light connected with 
premonitions of wind and storm. These were only two of 
the man)' apparitions, that, like those of the moon and 
planets, were deemed indications of coming tempests, or 
prognostications of fair weather. 

Doubtless the very name of wind, animos or spiritus, 
meaning also breath and soul, animal and spirit, favored the 
formation of legends concerning the winds, as we still see 
the outcome of these in the similarity between gust and 
ghost, the spirit in the breath being the spirit of the air. 
This has been observed of man)' languages.f The same 

•Tylor.— Primitive Culture, II., 266. 
■* Brinton.— Myths of the New Worid. 


words express wind, spirit, life and breath in Hebrew, Greek, 
Latin and other European tonges, as well as in Dacota, Choc- 
taw, Netela and Esquimaux. This resemblance of the 
air to the breath, of the wind to the soul, accounts for 
many legends connected with these subjects, and partly for 
the prominence given to the winds in mythology. 

The ancients attributed to many of their gods power 
over the elements. Jupiter or Zeus, above all, brought 
tempests. As, says Homer, — 

" Sudden the Thunderer blackens all the skies." 

And Sophocles, — 

" But Jove denies 
A favorable wind." 

As chief god and storm god, he controlled all other wind 
gods, and navigators sacrificed to him. 

As Jupiter Pluvius, rains were sent by him. Poseidon 
or Neptune, Oceanus, Nereus, Pontus and other sea-gods 
raised storms, and sacrifices were made to them, and to the 
winds themselves, which were personified, and depicted ac- 
cording to their several characters. 

*Eurus, the southeast, was a .gay young man; Auster, 
the south wind, bringer of rain, a gloomy old man (whence 
our word austere)-, Zephyus, southwest, was figured as a 
young and gentle youth, and Boreas, the rugged north 
wind, as a rough and wild old man. Boreas was the princi- 
pal storm wind, and to him numerous altars were erected. 

The Greeks sacrificed to him when about to encounter 
the Persian fleet at Magnesium, and accounted its destruc- 
tion as an answer to their prayers. Hesiod says Boreas, 
Zephyrus, and Notus were sent from heaven; the other 
winds were Typhonic. 

These winds were controlled by jEoIus in his wind cav- 
ern in the island of JEoXia., and ^Eneas finds him, — 

f "Where, in a spacious cave of living stone. 
The tyrant jEolus, from his airy throne, 
With power imperial curbs the struggling winds, 
And sounding tempests in dark prison binds." 

.iEolus could confine the winds in a bag, and so for 
.^neas, — 

"The adverse winds in leathern bags he braced. 
Compressed their force and lock'd each struggling blast.' 

♦Murray.— Hand-book of Mythology. 
+ Dryden.— JEneld, Bk. I. 


(So Abbuto, the Japanese wind-god, is depicted with a 
bag between his shoulders.) 

He gave them to Ulysses, liberating the one fair wind, but 
the curious crew freed the others, and the ship was driven 
back again. 

This abode of the winds changed from time to time. 
Diodorus Siculus says the priests of Boreas lived in Buto 
(Great Britain). There is a French tale of a Russian prince 
who entered a cave in a forest during a storm. He met an 
old woman, who informed him that this was the cave of the 
winds, and these soon after entered. With Zephyr, a hand- 
some youth, the prince traveled to Felicity. 

Virgil locates the cave of the winds at Lipari islands. 
Diodorus makes ./Eolus a real monarch of Sorrento, who 
invented sails and storm signals — ancient prototype of "Old 
Probabilities.". His island,* .(Eolia, with its triple wall of 
brass and perpetual delights, was a sort of terrestrial para- 
dise; the first of many in Homer's poems. 

Other Greek divinities were fabled to possess power over 
the winds. Poseidon, Amphitrite, and even inferior deities, 
as Triton, were said to possess this power to a limited extent. 
Minerva gave to Iphigenia a fair wind, from Tauris, and 
Vulcan sent a storm against the Argonauts, until the more 
powerful Juno interfered, when j 

" His bellows heave their windy sides no more, 
Nor his shrill anvils shake the distant shore." 

So Others possessed these magic powers. Cal3'pso could 
control the winds, the Sirens invoke them, and Circe gave 
to Ulysses a fair wind I 

" A freshening breeze her magic power supplied, 
While the winged vessel flew along the tide." 

The winds were doubtless ancientl)"^ represented under 
other forms. For such is Orpheus, with his lyre, who 
charms fish, moves the Argo, and fixes the Symplegades. 
This wind-l)'re is represented in folk-lore by numerous 
harps that have lured mermaids from their caves, or 

§" Harpit a fish out o' saut water." 

•Keary.— Outlines, etc., p. 308. 

+ Ap. Rhofiius, Argronautics.— Fawkes' Trans. 

t Pope.— Odyssey. Bk. X. 

§ Jamieson.— Scottish Ballads, 1-98. 


*" Orpheus, who charms by his lyre, the Sirens with their 
alluring lay, and the piper, with his baneful tune, are but 
the wind." 

Mercury or Hermes, the winged messenger, was doubtless 
the wind. The harpies were storm gusts, that with the two 
sons of Boreas, fight for the mastery. " This,"f says Ruskin, 
"in its literal form, means only the battle between the fair 
north wind and the foul south one." They were repre- 
sented as foul birds. Amphion, Pan and Zethios represented 
the winds.J 

Storms and tempests came from Typhon. Hesiod says:§ 
" Lo! from TyphcEus is the strength of winds." 

I The Hermean zodiac from Egyptian temples shows us 
Typhon causing winds and lightning. He was the demon of 
the lower world, or night. 

** Rimmon or Mirmir, was a Chaldean wind-god. 

ffln Hindoo lore, the Ribhus were storm-demons, as also 
the Maruts, offspring of Prishno, and attendants of Indra. 
Hamamunt is son of the winds, and travels on the storm- 
clouds. Another Vedaic storm-deity is Rudra or £riga, 
a word from the same root as brew. So the phrase " brew- 
ing a storm " has been referred to the soma, nectar, and 
ambrosia distilled at godlike banquets. In Germany, mists 
are yet said to be brewed by witches, elves, or dwarfs. 

VayuJJ was, however, chief god of the winds and 
atmosphere. The winds, in Vedaic legends were twenty- 
one, each guarded by an elephant. The Pitris were wind- 
gods, and the Rakshasas, wolf-shaped storm demons. 

§§ In Semitic lore, Samael was a known storm-demon, 
and from his name we have the samiel or simoom. Zoro- 
aster believed in a wind-causing spirit, Vato or Vad, a Dev, 
or evil one. 

Semkail was also an oriental wind-god. We read in 
Mottalib,|||| "I keep the winds in awe with the hand whicl: 
you see in the air, and prevent the wind Haidje from c ". - 
ing forth. With my other hand, I prevent the sea fro in 

•Piske.— Myths and Myth-makers. 

+ Queen of the Air. 

i Cox.- Aryan Mythology, II., 251. 


D G. Massey.— Book of the Beginnings. 

••Brewer.— Header's Hand Book. 

+t Kelly.— Indo-European Folk-lore. 21. 

U Keary.— Outlines of Primitive BeUefs, 1481. Rig Veda, 11-34. 

SS Brewer.— Reader's Hand Book. 

I I History of Abd-el-Mottalib.— Trans, by Compte de Caylus, 1743. 


Eight angels, subject to Solomon's will, rule the winds in 
Talmudic and Koranic legends. - •" 

Rabbinical* legends also tell of the Simorgue, a great bird 
that causes the wind by moving its wings. Bechard is a 
wind-causing demon in the "Clavicle of Solomon." fEl 
Kazwini says: " The winds come from the bottom of the sea," 
as Pliny likewise asserts concerning Auster. 

In Arab legend, Sakina, an angel, presides over the winds. 

The Norse Sagas represent Odin as the great wind-god, 
who swept along the sky with a retinue of souls. The gusts 
preceding a storm were said to be the souls of women 
hunted by Odin and his gang. 

From this legend doubtless descended the many tales of 
the wild huntsman, still heard in storms by the German 
peasant. JCarinthian and Swabian peasants still set out a 
bowl of meal for the wind-god in gales, saying, " There, 
meal thou hast for thy child, but thou must be ofi." These 
attendant demons of the winds are, like the Greek Harpies, 
gusts of the coming storm. Husi was the Finnish storm- 
demon, especially of the north wind, and was attended by a 
retinue of cats, dogs, etc. §Iri Russian peasant-tales, Vikhar 
is the whirlwind, fl)'ing as a bird in the gale, and stealing 
people away. The wind-demon was said to be attended by 
the souls of unbaptized children, and English peasants say 
they hear their wails. 

The Wildhunt receives various names, and is known all 
over Europe. It is connected with Herodias, being " La 
Chasse Herode," and " Chasse Maccabei," with the Frei- 
schiitz, being " Hackelbarend," or "Grand Veneur," and 
with the Wandering Jew, who is said to have appeared in it 
in Brittan}-, and caused tempests, etc., in 1604. || In Swabian 
folk-lore, the wind-demon is called Neck, and rides a stall- 
ion from the sea. They are the dogs** of Annvs^yn in Wales, 
and the Heath-hounds in ffDevonshire. Many other legends 
exist concerning the Wildhunt, but these need not detain 
us longer. 

JJOdin rode his gray steed Sleipnir, the wind, only in 
bad weather, and on it passed over the ocean. Wodin's 

♦Brewer. — Reader's Hand Book- 

•f Man-els of Creation. 

iWuttke. — Deutsche- Volksaber glauben. 

gEalston. — Russian Folk-lore. 

I Blind.— In Ckjnt. Rev., October, 1882. 

**Sike3. — British Goblins and Welsh Folk-lore. 

tt Mrs. Braj-.— Legends and Traditions of DevoDsMre. 

t? Thorpe.— Korthem Mythology. 


day, or Wednesday, was long an unlucky one in the sea- 
man's calendar. He was also named Nikar, as we shall 
find. Often appearing as a favorable wind-giver, he was 
named Oskabyrr, or wish-wind. *Ogauban, the Norse 
iEolus, had the winds in a leathern bag. 

f Odin's third son, Niord, sails the waves and raises sea- 
storms. He was especially the mariner's god. To him 
was consecrated the Spongia mart?ia, or "Neptune's goblets;" 
CEgir (whence our ogre) was another Norse storm-god. I 
shall speak again of the goddess Helgi, who attacked Eric 
the pirate in a northerly storm of hail. 

J Kasi was also a Norse wind-god. 

Norse legends represent the north wind as Hraesvelg, or 
" Corpse Devourer," in the guise of an eagle, and Scott 
says Shetlanders thought the north wind came from the 
movements of its wings, and made offerings to it. 

§ " Where the heavens' remotest bound 
With darkness is encompassed round. 
There Hrasvelger sits and wrings 
The tempest from its eagle wings. " 

This conception of the wind as a bird, or as caused by a 
bird, will often be met with in these pages. So Aquilo and 
Aquila, north wind and eagle, have the same derivation in 
Latin, as Vultur and Vulturnus also. || In the Hindoo 
Somadeva, Garuda's wings cause a storm. These birds are 
doubtless of angelic origin, and embody the idea of good 
spirits in the air in opposition to evil ones. — 

The winds are often personified in Norse folk-tales. 

Tuulen-ty-bat** is a Finnish wind-god, and sends good 
winds. Uiro-tadi and Ukko, the supreme god, also con- 
trolled the winds. The Circassian Seoseres was a wind- 
god as well as a water-god.f f Kamskatdales say Billukai, 
the supreme god, controls the winds. 

JJEsthonians called the wind-god Tuule-Ema (wind's 
mother). They say, "Wind's mother wails; who knows 
what mother will wail next? " 

Poznisky was a Sclavonian wind-deity; Poswijd, Stryba, 

"•Grimm.— Teut. Mythology, p. 690. 
i Saemundic Edda, 18. 
t Grimm.— Teut. Slj'thology, 531. 
§Saemundr Edda Vafthrudmr mal, 37. 
1 Grimm.— Teut, Mythology, 633. 
**Castren.— Finnish Mj-thology, 37-68. 
++Steller.— Kamskatka, 266. 
ttTylor.— Primitive Culture, 1-268. 


and Vichera, Polish storm-deities, Okka Peernis was a 
Letton god of wind and sky. 

*Stribog was an old Russian god of winds. Baba 
Yaga, a witch, moves in storms. 

f In Cornish legends, the moaning of the wind is " the 
calling of the northern deep," and is said to be a certain 
Tregeagle, who sold himself to the devil, and is condemned 
to clean out Dosmary Pool. In carrying away sand, he is 
said to have dropped it and caused a bar in the harbor, and 
so the winds are called Tregeagle's roar. Penzance boat- 
men sa)' the devil himself was carrying sand and broke his 
apron-string, thus causing the bar. 

J The winds were personified in Indian lore, and names 
given to represent their character. The great bear-slayer, 
Mudjeekeewis (west wind), was chief of all. Wabun, the 
east wind, young and beautiful, and Kabibonnokka, the 
north wind, fierce and terrible, with Shawondasee, the 
south wind, fat and lazy, were his children. 

§Gaoh was Iroquois "father of the winds." The Utes 
say the winds are caused by the breathing of monstrous 
beasts in the south and north. 

II The Creeks called the Supreme Ruler the " master of 
breath"; Cherokees, the "eldest of winds." Huchtoli was 
the Choctaw storm-god. All Indian tribes regarded the 
winds as in the power of the spirits of the four cardinal 
points, and many represent them in bird form. Navajos 
say there are white swans at each point. 

In the Palenque cross, the wind, as a bird, dominates 
over the north point. Dacotahs called the west the home 
of the spirit of the storm-breezes. The owl was the Chip- 
peway spirit of the north wind, the butterfly, of the south. 
Algonquins said the thunder-spirit used one of the four 
winds as a drumstick to cause thunder. Iroquois Indians 
said the winds were caused by a water-lizard, and by the 
thunder-bird, Hahnes; and the Northern Piutes, by a water- 
god shaking his tail. 

Dr. Brinton tells us that many tribes, from Algonquins 
to Peruvians, believed storms were caused biy the struggles 
of four giants, who ruled the winds. Many "of the legends 
of their origin and descent are connected with the winds, 

'HalstOB.^Eussian Folk-lore. 

t Hunt.— Eomances and Drolls of the North of England. 
t Brinton.— Myths of the New World. 
i Morgan.- Iroquois, 137. 


and in many instances their ancestors are identified directly 
with the winds. In Yucatan myths, four gods, identical 
with the winds, stood at the corners of the earth, like giant 
Atlantes. In Mandan legend, the four winds are as many 
gigantic tortoises; in Quiche, they are four maize-bring- 
ing animals. Kukalkan was a Maya lord of the four 

Mixcohuatl was a Mexican storm-god, the tropical whirl- 
wind, and * Quetzalcoatl also, "Lord of the four winds." 
Our word hurricane comes from the name of the Quiche 
god of storms, Hurakan,f and Incas believed the winds 
abode in a cave, the " House of Subsistence," as did the 

Caribs say Maboyo, a demon, causes hurricanes, and 
Saracon is a bird, once a man, who raises storms. 

The four Peruvian wind-gods were Manco, Cacha, Anca, 
and Uchao, and they arose from a lake. 

Brazilian Tupi Indians said the winds were caused by 
Tupan, the Thunder-bird. 

Greenland Esquimaux | say storms at sea are caused by 
a certain giant kayaker, who paddles on the water in his 
kayak, and raises tempests at will. 

Sillam § Innua, owner of winds, Sillagiksartok, weather- 
spirit, and Sillam Aiparive, lord of winds, were also pos- 
sessed of power over the elements. 

Polynesians had various wind-gods to whom fishermen 
and sailors sacrificed. || Veromatantoru and Tairibu were 
worshiped in one group, and Ta-whiri-ma-tea in another. 
Maui, the chief Polynesian deity, was also a wind-god. 
** Alo-Alo was a Tongan storm deity. Sowaki was a New 
Zealand god of the elements, and Tokalam has a grove dedi- 
cated to his service in one of the Fiji islands, he being a 
great wind-god. Sacrifices were made to these gods, and 
the Fijians invoked their aid to destroy invading fleets. 

The Chinese said dragons brought clouds, and tigers 
winds, and they believed the gusts in a typhoon to be 
caused by a dragon (Tin-mi-loong), " bob-tail dragon," ff 
and say it is seen in them. The Japanese wind-god was 

• Bancroft. — Native Eaees, p. 259, vol. iii. 

•t Bancroft.— Native Races, p. 475. 

t Eink.— Tales and Traditions of the Esquimaux. 

8 Cranz.— Gronland. 

t Ellis's Polynesian Researches. 

*♦ Mariner. — Tonga, II. 15. 

+t Grant.— Myteries of aU Nations, 66. 


Abbuto, who had steel claws and tigerish countenance. The 
devil of King James's witches had an eagle's beak and steel 
claws, and cold blasts came from his wings. 

* Futen, another Japanese storm deity, often figured in 
engravings and in temple statues, has the face and claws of 
a cat. Kama-Itachi, a kind of weasel, is represented as 
the whirlwind. 

In the whirlwind the influence of the storm deities and 
demons was particularly recognized. In early German,f it 
was Zio (god). To-day it is swine-tail (Schweinazahl) a 
nick-name for the devil, or, as in Saalfield, Saxony and 
Markland, it is called, with the devil, Stopke. Or it is 
Herodias whirling through the air, or " wind's bride " (winds- 
braut), or Freya chased by Odin and his gang. In Russia 
it is Vikhar, a sort of demon. It is also caused by lesser 
powers than these. In Russia witches are credited with 
originating it. Sorcerers also caused them, and in Celtic 
belief, fairies had a hand in them. In Scotland they were 
" a furl o' fairies ween." So in Poland it is a dance of evil 
fairies. By sticking a knife in one you get rich at your 
soul's expense,J and in Russia, Lyesby, a demon sometimes 
traveling in the whirlwind, was thus controlled. 

Pau Puk-Keewis,§ the Algonquin magician, was the crea- 
tor of the whirlwind. 

The storm raising demon is particular!}- apparent in a 
Cornish legend, related by Bottrell.|| A smuggler captain, 
unable to enter -port, swears and tears his hair out, throw- 
ing it to the winds, as an offering to his fellow-demons, when 
the storm ceases. Popular belief on this subject is illus- 
trated bj' the saying of ** Burton: " The air is not so full of 
flies in summer as it is at all times of fier}- devils, that stir 
up storms, cause tempests, etc." "Aeriall spirits or devils 
are such as keep quarter for the most part in the aire; 
(they) cause many tempests, thunder, lightning, tear oakes, 

We see by these examples of popular belief in wind-gods 
and storm demons that the sailor originated no new ideas, 
but adopted common beliefs concerning these wind-causers. 
His fighting off the water spout with black knives, finds its 

» Grcej-.— The Wonderful City of Tokio. 

+ Grimm.— Teut. MTthology. 

iRalston. — Songs of the Russian People, p. 3, 82. 

8 Schoolcraft.— Indian Tribes. 

I Traditions and Fireside Stories of West Com walL 

** Anatomy of Melancholy. 


analogy in the Russian ideas concerning the whirlwind. 
Did he sacrifice to his wind-gods, either by offerings or by 
ceremonies and prayers, what more was he doing than the 
mountaineer of the Alps or the French peasant, who prays 
for rain ? In Normandy it was formerly a custom to fire 
silver bullets at a rain cloud to disperse it, and a Tyrolese 
mountaineer is recorded .as firing his small cannon at the 
winds to calm them. Savages go still further, and threaten 
the wind. * Paraguayan Indians rush against them with 
fire-brands and clenched fists, Kalmucks fire guns at the 
storm demons. Namaguas and Aleuts shoot arrows into 
the storm cloud, and Zulu rain doctors whistle to the light- 
ning to leave the skies. 

Many notions existed concerning the influence of the 
planets on the weather. Among them is one, not yet by 
any means extinct, that the moon controls the weather. 
Says the Padrone in the " Golden Legend," — 

" For the weather changes with the moon," 

and Longfellow has thus preserved one of the most precious 
beliefs of sailor-lore. 

Here, again, we are only in the current of popular ideas 
on the subject. Doctor Lardnerf tells us: "many, it is true, 
may discard predictions which aifect to define, from day to 
day, the state of the weather. There are few, however, who 
do not look for a change of the weather with a change of 
the moon. It is a belief nearly universal that the epochs of 
a new and a full moon are, in the great majority of instances, 
attended by a change of weather, and that the quarters, 
although not so certain, are still epochs when a change may 
be probably expected. No navigator, from the captain or 
master, to the commonest seaman, ever doubts for a single 
moment the influence of a new and full moon over fair 
weather and foul." 

These and similar beliefs existed in antiquity. 

JVarro, quoted by Pliny, says that a new moon with 
erect horns on the fourth day presages great storms at sea. 
" If a darkness comes over the moon's face, in whatever 
quarter it breaks, from that quarter wind maybe expected." 
This latter is not far from true. He further says that if the 
new moon, on rising, has the upper horn obscured, rainy 

* Farrar. — Primitive Cuftoms. p. 2. 
+ Cabinet Cyclopsedia. 
tNat. History, Bk. II, Ch. 39. 


weather is presaged when the moon wanes; but if it is the 
lower horn, rain at full moon; if the middle of her crescent, 
at once will it rain. He also declares that obtuse horns at 
rising of the new moon presage frightful tempests. If the 
moon, while winds prevail, does not appear before the fourth 
day, stormy weather will continue. If it appear bright and 
flaming on the sixteenth day, violent tempests will result. 
Virgil thus epitomizes these ancient beliefs, — 

* " When first the moon appears, if then she shrouds 
Her silver crescent tipp'd with sable clouds, 
Conclude she bodes a tempest on the main, 
And brews for fields impetuous floods of rain; 
Or if her face with fiery flushing glow. 
Expect the rattling winds aloft to blow. 
But four nights old (for that the surest sign), 
With sharpene.d horns, if glorious then she shine, 
Next day, not only that, but all the moon. 
Till her revolving race be wholly run. 
Are void of tempests, both by land and sea. 
And sailors in the pert their promis'd vows shall pay." 

"And that by certain signs we may presage 
Of heats and rains, and winds' impetuous rage. 
The Sovereign of the heavens has set on high 
The moon, to mark the changes of the sky." 

The moon in her first or last quarter in the horizon is 
thought to betoken fair weather. This superstition existed 
also among the Indians, f Pliny says the fourth or fifth day 
of the new moon was particularly watched for indications 
of the weather, both in Rome and in Eg}-pt. If the horns 
were then obtuse, it was considered a sign of rain; if sharp 
and erect, of wind from the direction of the highest horn; 
or high wind at night, if both were equal. 

This reverence for the moon is without known beginning, 
extending back into antiquity. Isis, patron of navigation, 
is the moon also, and the influence of the moon on the tides, 
half guessed at, led observing men to attribute to it a great 
power in indicating weather. 

Aratus asserts that the appearance of the moon affects 
the weather. Lucullus goes further in his ideas of the in- 
fluence of the moon, and asserts that oysters and shell-fish 
become larger during the increase than during the wane of 
the moon. 

These ideas are perpetuated in more modern times. 

♦Georffic T. Dry den's Ti-ans. 
tLib. II. Bk. 39. 


* Bartholomeus says: "The moon is the mother of all 
humours, minister and lady of the sea." 

f Newton calls her " Ladye of Moisture," and J Lydgate 

"Of Lucina, the moon, moist and pale, 
That many showers fro' heaven made availe." 

Another old English author says: " The moone gathereth 
deawe in the aire, for she printeth the vertue of her moyst- 
ure in the aire, and chaungeth the ayre in a manner that is 
unseene, and breadeth and gendereth deawe in the utter 
parts thereof." 

§ Bede intimates similar beliefs: " If she looks Ijke gold 
in her last quarter, there will be wind; if on the top of the 
crescent black spots appear, it will be a rainy month; if in 
the middle, her full moon will be serene." 

Alcuin calls the moon " the prophetess of the weather." 

Shakspeare records the common beliefs in various places. 
In " Hamlet," U she is 

" The moist star. 
Upon whose influence Neptune's empire stands.'' 

In " Timon of Athens," — 

' The sea's a thief, whose liquid surge resolves 
The moon into salt tears." 

And again, — 

**" Therefore the moon, the governess of floods. 
Pale in her anger, washes all the air. " 

In France, the moon on the fourth day indicates the 
weather for the month, and also in Belgium, while in Ger- 
many it is the third, fourth or fifth day. In France, " If 
the horns of the moon are turned toward the sea, there will be 
eruptions of the sea during the year." In Belgium, a flame- 
colored moon on the sixth day indicates a tempest. Many 
beliefs concerning the influence of the moon on plants and 
animals exist in most European countries, and need not be 
repeated here. The influence of the moon on the tides, and 
other natural phenomena connected with her appearance, 

* De Proprietatis Kerum. 

+ Directions f orthe health of Magistrates and Scholars, 1574, in Douce, 1-187, 

i stories of Thebes, in Douce, 1. c. 

§ De Rerum Natura. 

1 Hamlet, Act I, Sc. 1. 

** Midsummer Night's Dream, Act II, Sc. 2. See also Winter's Tale, 1, 2. 


doubtless gave rise to many of these beliefs. Marryatt says 
fishermen in England still think that fish spawned at full 
moon, rot soon after being taken out of the water, and that 
fish hung up in the moon soon decay. 

Thomas* tells us that the Indians in New Jersey thought 
the moon prognosticated the weather. Many other savage 
tribes have beliefs connected with the moon and the 
weather. Peruvians and Mexicans had their feast of water- 
gods at full moon. 

A circle about the moon has long been thought portent- 
ous. Wet weather will follow, say the wise, the sooner the 
smaller the circle. This circle is in Cornwall a " burre," or, 

f Falconer, in the "Shipwreck," says: 

" The waning moon, behind a wat'ry shroud, 
Pale glimmer'd o'er the long-protracted cloud; 
A mighty halo 'round her silver throne, 
Where parting meteors crossed, portentous shone: 
This in the troubled sky full oft prevails, — 
Oft deem'd a signal of tempestuous gales." 

Varro says if the full moon have such a circle, it foretells 
wind from the brightest quarter of the circle; if the circle 
is double, the storm will be the more violent; and if there 
are three, it will be a terrific gale. 

In Scotland, this circle is called a "broch," or "brugh." 

J "About the moon there is a brogh. 
The weather will be cold and rough.'' 

And an English proverb reads, "The moon with a circle 
brings water in her beak." 

§In the dictionary of Dr. Jamieson we find this: "A 
brugh or hazy circle around the moon is accounted a certain 
prognostic of rain." 

II In the Shetland Islands, the lunar halo is called Van- 
gar-for, interpreted, "rain-go-before." A small bright cir- 
cle is a "cockseye," and indicates unsettled weather. 

Milanese and French proverbs assert that such a ring 
around the moon announces rain; and a Calais saj'ing runs: 

** "Circle round the moon. 
Sailors go aloft full soon." 

* History of West New Jersey. 

tCauto 1. 

tSwaiiison — Weather-lore. 

I.Tamieson- — EtjTuologica 1 Dictionary of tlie Scottish Lang^iagre. — "Mone.** 

11 Blind. — Contempoi-ar.v Kcvicw, Jloj'-Septcmlicr, 38S2. 

*'b"ivainsou — Weatlier-lorc. 


But a Breton proverb qualifies its effects: 

* " Never a circle to the moon 

Should send your topmasts down. 
But when it is around the sun. 
With all the masts it must be done." 

A Spanish proverb runs thus: "The moon with her circle 
brings water in her beak." The same is believed in Pom- 

Longfellow again interprets the sailor belief in this 

t" ^ pray thee put into yonder port, 
For I fear a hurricane. " 
" Last night, the moon had a golden ring, 
And to-night, no moon we see.* 

Lunar rainbows were equally portentous, not without 
some foundation. Moon-dogs indicate a change of weather 
in Whitby, England. 

In the "Ancient Mariner," the moon gives omens unfort- 
unate when 

' ' The rain poured down from one black cloud. 
The moon was at its edge." 

Another superstition is embodied in the verse, — 

' ' Clomb above the eastern bar. 
The horned moon, with one bright star 
Within the nether tip." 

And also Alan Cunningham, — 

"There's tempest in yon horned moon." 

This "star-dogged moon" was long thought to be an ill 
omen, portending storms, and is still so regarded in Lan- 
cashire and at Torquay, England. 

In a Scotch ballad, we read^ — 

§ "An ominous star sits above the bright moon." 

And again, in a scene of wreck, — 

("And the moon looked out 
With one large star by her side. " 

* Sebillot Litt. Orale de H. Bretagne. 

+ Tenne-Volksag-en aua. Pom. 

t Golden Legend. 

§ Cunningham. — Folk-lore of Scottish and English Peasants, p. 294. 

I Cunningham.— Folk-lore of Scottish and English Peasants, p. 273. 


Irish seamen call this dogging-star " Hurlbassy," and 
say it portends tempests. "One star ahead of the moon 
towing her, and one star chasing her, are signs of storm."* 

In an old ballad, "Sir Patrick Spence" (1281), we read: 

f " I saw the new moon late yestreen 
Wi' the auld moon in her arms. 
And if we gang to sea, maister, 
I fear we'll come to harm. " 

This appearance of the moon was long thought to por- 
tend tempests, and is still thought to do so in Scotland. 

We have elsewhere alluded to the moon in her quarters 
as a boat and as a sign of dry weather. If it is upset — that 
is, the horns point downward — it will be rainy. In an old 
English play, by Dekker.J we find this: 

" My love, do you see this change i' the moon ? 
Sharpe homes do threaten windy weather." 

And a Scotch rhyme has it, — 

§ " The homy moon is on her back, 

Mend your shoon and sort your thack." 

Dr. Jamieson again says: "It is considered as an almost 
infallible presage of bad weather, if the moon lies sair on 
her back, or when her horns are pointed toward the zenith. 
It is a similar prognostic when the new moon appears with 
the auld moon in her arms." 

II English fishermen say you may hang your hat upon it 
then. In Liverpool, it will rain when the horns are up, as 
it is a boat full of water. We read in "Adam Bede": "Aye, 
the moon lies sair on her back there. That's a sure sign of 
fair weather! " 

French and Italian proverbs say, " The moon eats the 
clouds"; and modern seamen firmly believe that the moon, 
when she rises in a storm, will soon eat up the clouds. 
Many an old seaman has assured me of this during anxious 

These beliefs concerning the influence of the moon are 
still widespread. As Dr. Brinton** says: "As the moon is 
associated with the dampness and dew of night, an ancient 

* History of CarrickfergxH, 1827. 
+ Chambers. — Scottish Ballads, 
t Match Me in London, Act I, So. 3, 145. 
S Brand. Pop. Antiq, LU-148. 
(Dyer.— English Folk-lore, 39-tO. 
"Myths of the New World. 


and widespread myth identifies her with the goddess of 
water. Moreover, in spite of the expostulation of the 
learned, the common people the world over persist in at- 
tributing to her a marked influence on the rain.^' 

Science has nevertheless fully disproved many of these 
beliefs still current among landsmen as well as seamen. 

Abb6 Marcel, of Geneva, carefully investigated the changes 
of the moon in relation to the weather. In 742 lunar months, 
there were 2,630 changes of weather, 93 at new moon, 90 at 
full moon, 109 the day after full, 107 the day after new moon, 
so that the proportion of change of weather at new moon 
was 0.125, ^t full moon 0.12. 

Toaldo collated the weather observations made at 
Padua for forty-five years. He .called the changes three 
days before and after. He found the proportion of change 
of weather at change of moon, 6.7 at new moon, 5.6 at full, 
and 2.3 at the quarters. But his interval is too long to be 
of any value, and his conclusions are rejected by Dr.Lard- 
ner, who fully investigated the subject, and disproved the 
supposed influence of the moon. 

With regard to halos, a paper published in the Quarterly 
Journal of Meteorology, by two distinguished English me- 
teorologists, analyzes extended observations of these, amount- 
ing to 155 solar and 61 lunar halos, during the six years 
ending June, 1881. Of the 155 solar observations, rain fell 
81 times on the same day, 31 the day after and not at all 26 
times. Of the 61 lunar observations, rain fell 34 times on 
the first day, 6 on the second day, and not at all 8 times. 
Rain fell within 48 hours, with the wind at south or west, 
in 80 per cent, of the solar halos, and within 3 days in nearly 
all of the observations of lunar halos. But this was in 
England, in a wet climate, where rain was nearly sure to 
fall within these periods, and near London, where the at- 
mosphere was damp, and halos more common. 

With regard to the moon's effect in clearing up the 
clouds, we must be credulous, notwithstanding the assur- 
ances of Mr. Park Harrison, who, in 1868, assured the British 
Association of Sciences, that the moon at full did help to 
clear up the clouds, the difference of reflected heat between 
full and new moon being two degrees, sufficient to clear up 
the clouds. 

Many other beliefs with regard to the moon's power over 
the waters are alluded to in these pages, testifying to the 
universality of these legends. In astrology she was the 


sign for sailors and nautical folk. She is found hereafter 
connected with the cat, the dolphin, and with mermaids, 
and other weather-prophets. These analogies lead, doubt- 
less, to many of the beliefs concerning the moon. *" To the 
ancients the moon was not a lifeless ball of stones and 
clods; it was the horned huntress Artemis, coursing 
through the upper ether, or bathing herself in the clear 
lake; or it was Aphrodite, protectress of lovers, born of the 
sea-foam in the east near Cyprus." 

The sailor but reflected, and perhaps, as in most of his 
beliefs, perpetuated, ancient ideas on this subject. 

Clouds were also closely studied by early navigators; but 
their indications being more real, we ma)' expect to find 
fewer traditions and legends connected with them in sailor- 
lore. The long, striated clouds that appear in fine weather, 
extending nearly across the sky, are called " Noah's ark," 
and if they extend from east to west, they portend a dry 
spell; if from north to south, wet weather. 

Shooting-stars are thought, in parts of England, to fore- 
tell tempests. 

So Virgil, in the " Georgics," — 

"And oft, before tempestuous winds arise, 
The seeming stars fall headlong from the skies." 

Plin}' and Aristotle both saj- comets cause winds and 
great storms, and a prejudice against these harmless wan- 
derers yet exists in many quarters. 

Homer says: 

*'As the red comet, from Saturnius sent. 
To fright the nations, with a dire portent 
(A fatal sign to armies in the plain, 

* Or trembling sailors on the wintry main.)" 

And again, — • 

"The blazing star 
Threatening the world with famine, plague and wars 
To sailors storms." 

Proctor says no comet is here meant, the words being 
mistranslated. It is onh', — • 

"A bright star sent by the crafty son of Kronos." 

Diodorus sa3's of Timoleus' expedition to Sicilv, B.C. 34J-; 
' The gods announced by a remarkable portent his success 

♦Gubernatis.— Zoological Mythology. 


and future greatness. A blazing star appeared in the heavens 
at night, and went before the fleet of Timoleus until he 
arrived in Sicily." 

Bede says that they portend bad weather, but they have, 
in modern times, no influence at all over the weather, and 
their appearance has long ago lost its terrors along with 
that of the eclipse, long an auspicious omen to landsmen 
and sailor alike. 

A recent writer* reports a superstition of English 
sailors in reference to the Southern Cross: " Soon after 
you lose the pole star, you rise the Southern Cross, and 
the men had a notion it was a brooch the Virgin Mary- 
lost from her breast in the daylight, when she went up to 
heaven. 'Twas her son gave it to her, they fancied, but 
'twas always to be found in the dark, though meanwhile 
'tis a sign to the Flying Dutchman, as he tries to weather 
the Cape, that he'll be forgiven at the Day of Judgment, 
so that's the reason it has the power of showing what's 
o'clock till then, and why the cape is the Cape of Good 

New Zealandersf say the Southern Cross is the anchor 
hanging from the prow of the canoe of Tamareretu. 

The Argo is the famous Greek ship, transferred to the 
heavens by Minerva. The sight of this constellation, in 
which is Canopus, was a good omen to Nile boatmen.^ 

The dark spots on the Southern sky are called " coal 
sacks " by our sailors. 

•Cupplee— -'The Green Hand," part 1. 

fTylor, Anthropologj-, 1-421. TJDupnie, Oregine de tooe lea cnltes, YI-461. 



Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea, 
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathM horn." 


' The timber that frames his faithful boat. 
Was dandled in storms on the mountain peaks, 
And in storms with a bounding keel will float, 
And laugh when the sea-fiend shrieks." 

Ji>/m Sterling — " The Mariner." 

HE sea, no less than the land or 
the air, has been peopled with 
many imaginary beings, some 
inhabitants simply, others ruling 
or controlling spirits for good 
or evil. Not only in antiquit)- 
have these beliefs prevailed, but traces 
still linger in maritime language and 
tradition, of these wide-spread ideas of 
good and evilspirits, — of thinking and 
sentient beings, having a home be- 
neath the wave. 

In the present chapter appear the 
Deities and Demons who ruled or con- 
trolled the waves, and to whom the 

_. . _. prayers, fears, and hopes of the mariner have 

""^^-v- been specially directed. It is not possible to 
treat fully of the subject in the limits of a single 
chapter, so little more will be done than to mention these 
deities and relate their principal attributes. 

It is among the nations of antiquity, as also among the 
less cultivated peoples that now inhabit the globe, that we 
find the greater part of these legends. 

The first of these beings, is found in the meagre accounts of 
the nations that first inhabited the plains between the Eu- 



phrates and Tigris rivers. *Prominent among Babylonian 
deities was Hea, or Hoa, called " Deity of the Abyss," who had 
temples in Ur and other maritime cities. He was also lord 
of arts, and taught them to men. Sennacherib, when about 
to undertake a maritime expedition down the Tigris, offered 
to this god a golden boat, a golden fish, and a golden coffer. 
Akkad inscriptions call him Nukim-nut, "great inventor," 
" Lord," " Great Master," etc. He was also ruler of Hades 
and the lower world. Daokina, his spouse, was goddess of 
the deep. Lenormant says Hea means fish. 

Nor is this the only tradition of this semi-divine sea- 

Assyrian records tell of a similar deity. On, or Cannes, 
who possessed like attributes. Alexander Polyhistor,f quot- 
ing from earlier writers, says, " In the first year there made 
its appearance from a part of the Erythraean Sea an animal 
endowed with reason, who was called Cannes (according to 
the account of Apollodorus). The whole body of the animal 
was like that of a fish, and had under its fish head another 
head, and also feet below similar to that of a man, subjoined 
to the fish's tail." Six such monsters are said to have after- 
ward arisen from the Persian Gulf, and Berosus tells that a 
semi-demon, Annedotes, very like Cannes, arose from the 
sea during the historical period. 

J "In his time (King Amnemus) a monster named Idotia 
again issued from the Erythraean Sea, with a form which 
was a mingling of man and fish." 

" During hi^ reign (Daronos) there again issued forth 
from the Erythraean Sea four monsters." 

"And under him (Edoranchos) appeared one more, rising 
from the Erythraean Sea, and being a mixture of man and 
fish, whose name was Odala." 

Abydenus also tells of them, but calls them by different 
names. We also hear of them through Pindar, Hj'ginus 
and Helladius. 

Photius Byblius says: "He (Helladius) relates the fable 
of a man named Ces, who came out of the Erythraean Sea, 
having the perfect body of a fish, with the head, arms and 
feet of a man, and who taught astronomy and letters. Some 
say that he had come out of the primeval egg, whence his 

* Lenormant. — Ancient History of the East. Eng. Trans. 
+ Lenormant. — The Beginnings of History, 1883. Appendix. 
X Berosus, in Lenormant. — The Beginnings of History, p. 99, 


name, and that he was altogether a man, but resembled a 
fish, having dressed himself in the skin of a whale." 

* Berosus again says, "This being (Cannes), in the day- 
time, used to converse with men, but took no food at that 
season, and he gave them an insight into letters and 
sciences and every kind of art. He taught them to con- 
struct houses, etc. In short, he instructed them in every- 
thing which could tend to soften manners and humanize 
mankind. When the sun set, it was the custom of this be- 
ing to plunge again into the sea, and abide all night in the 
deep, for he was amphibious.' 

The account of Helladius probably hints at a solution of 
the whole mystery, which is important, as here is doubtless 
the birth of the whole generation of mermen and tritons. 
f Gesenius thinks the story typifies the arrival of a more 
cultured race through the Red Sea; Neibuhr, that the de- 
scription is of a man clothed in a fish-skin. 

In a succeeding chapter,]; we shall find an analogous case, 
where the arrival of a conquering race is concealed under a 
tradition of sea-men or sea-monsters. Here, doubtless, the 
same thing is meant. These traditions preser\'e the memory' 
of invasions of superior races, probably coming through the 
Persian Gulf. Portions of their dress might consist of the 
skin of the shark or other fish. 

§ Layard and Botta found, among the remains of Nine- 
veh and Babylon, huge statues of divinities ver}' like these 
just described. They represented a man with a fish-skin 
covering his back, the head forming a kind of mitre above 
his head, and the tail protruding below. 

Nin, the chief Nineven deity, was a sort of Hercules, 
Saturn and Neptune. 

I A hymn also exists to Kho-tum-ku-ku, daughter of the 

**Another marine deity of the Babylonians was Derceto, 
or Atergatis. The moon was her emblem, and she plunged 
into the sea to escape the god of evil. Semiramis was tra- 
ditionally her daughter. 

Derceto became a Syrian deity, and Damascus and Hie- 
ropolis were chief seats of her worship. 

'Blind.— Scottish, Shetland and other Water-gods. Cont. Rev., Sept., 1881. 

+ Cory.— Ancient Fragments. 

4: See Chap. iii. 

§ See Layard's Nineveh- 

flRecords of the Past. 

«* Cox.— Aryan Mythology, Bk. II., Ch. 2. 


*Berosus tells us that a goddess, Homoroka, reigned 
over the fish in the sea, and she was called in Chaldaic 
Thalath, or in Greek Thallassa (the sea). 

The Assyrian fish-god became the Phoenician and Syrian 
Dagon, which Milton thus characterizes, — 

" Dagon his name; sea monster, upward man, 
And downward fish." 

Dagon, philologists tells us, is from a word meaning fish 

The ancient Egyptians were not sea-faring, so we find 
few water deities among them. 

Isis, the Egyptian Moon-goddess, spouse of the Sun, 
closely resembled Derceto. Although not strictly a sea- 
goddess— for the ancient Egyptians feared and detested 
that element — she was patroness of navigation; her cult was 
borrowed by the Romans, and her feast, on the 5 th of March, 
was made the chief festival of navigators. ^ 

Num was the Egyptian lord of the water, god of the Nile, 
their ocean, and to him were dedicated the sacred barks, 
and festivals were held in his honor by the boatmen of the 
Nile.f It was believed that he appeared in the river as late 
as the sixth century. 

The Phoenicians, the chief mariners of early antiquity, 
had numerous gods of the sea. Derceto has been spoken of, 
and also Dagon, whose worship among the Philistines is 
often alluded to in Holy Writ. Astarte was the chief Sido- 
nian goddess. She was the Venus of Semitic lands, also 
called Ishtar, or Ashtarolh, and was venerated by mariners. 
The Cabiri, famous gods of learning and arts, were, in 
Syrian legend, inventors of navigation. Some writers 
affirmed them direct descendants of Noah, hence naturally 
protectors of navigators. There were several of them, and 
figure-heads, called pataikoi, were placed on the prows of 
Phoenician vessels to represent them. Many of the attri- 
butes of the Cabiri were transferred to the Dioscuri, or 
twin sons of Leda. 

On the coins of Ascalon, Derceto was figured with the 
moon above her head, and at her feet a woman with fish-tail. 

Diodorus says, " The goddess, which by the Syrians is 
called Dercetus, has the face of a man, but the rest of the 
image is" the figure of a fish." Lucian says, " The upper 

* Cory.— Ancient Fragments. 

+ Simocatta, VI, 16, in Maury.—" Magie." 


half was the perfect figure of a man; the lower part, from the 
thighs downward, terminated in the tail of a fish." 

The Greeks were, of all antiquity, chiefest nation at 
sea, so we may readily expect to find among their pantheon 
of gods, a great number of deities of the watery element. 

* Coming, then, to the better Greek sea-gods, we have 
Poseidon first of all, god of the sea and master of the watery 
element. He was fabled son of time, (Kronos), and flood 
(Rhea). Herodotus says he came from Libya, but some 
philologists say his name is connected with Si-don (Ship of 
On); others with potamos (river). He was god of the sea 
(Mediterranean) and ruler of the water, whether of cloud or 
of earth streams. He gathered clouds, raised and calmed 
the waves, sent storms, but granted safe voyages, and all 
other divinities of the sea were subject to him. He was 
inventor of . the ship, and, curiously enough, created the 
horse and bull — carriers on land. Arion, Scyphios, Pegasus 
and the golden-fleeced ram of Phryxus were his offspring. 
He dwelt with the ether gods on Olympus,- but had a pal- 
ace at ^gea under the waves. Numerous temples were 
dedicated to him, but chief among them were those on the 
capes of Sunium, Taenaria and at Corinth. He was repre- 
sented as a severe old man, bearing in his hand a long tri- 
dent, and riding in his car, drawn by horses or dolphins, 
and attended by Tritons, Nereids, and other marine mon- 
sters. Black and white bulls were favorite sacrifices to him, 
as says Virgil, — 

" There hecatombs of bulls — to Neptune slain, 
High flaming, please the monarch of the main,' 

for to Neptune, the Latin god of the sea, were transferred in 
later times most of the attributes of Poseidon. 

Virgil gives us this picture of the marine monarch,— 

f " Where'er he glides 
His finny coursers, and in triumph rides. 
The waves imruflle, and the sea subsides. 
His finny team Saturnian Neptune join'd. 
Then adds the foamy bridle to their jaws. 
And to the loosen'd rein permits the laws. 
High on the waves his azure car he guides; 
Its axles thunder and the sea subsides. 
And the smooth ocean rolls her silent tides; 
The tempests fly before their father's face, 
Trains of inferior gods his triumphs grace, 
And monster whales before their master play, 
And choirs of Tritons crowd the wat'ry way." 

•Cox.— Aiyan Mythology, n., 262. Dryden.— .^Sieid, Bk. V 


Prayers and sacrifices were made by Greek, Roman and 
Phoenician mariners to him, not only before setting out on 
a voyage, but also in case of calms, and after safely return- 
ing from a voyage. 

Menelaus, in "iphigenia in Tauris," says: 

"O Neptune, 
Who in the ocean dwell'st, and ye, chsiste daughter 
Of Nereus, to the Nauplian coast convey 
Me and my consort, from this hostile land! " 

He is represented as occasionally warring with deities of 
the shore, thus typifying the changes wrought by the waves 
of the sea; and from his realm come those marine monsters, 
the Bellerophon, the Andromeda monster, and others, cer- 
tainly representing the incursions of breakers and waves. 
Amphitrite is his consort, and Triton, one of his sons, 
always attended upon him. Many legends were, in course 
of time, gathered together concerning him by the later poets 
and mythographers. 

When .iEolus wrecked the Trojan fleet, Neptune thus 
rebuked him: 

* " Hence to your lord my royal mandate bear. 
The realms of ocean and the fields of air 
Are mine, not his. By fatal lot to me 
The liquid empire fell, and trident of the sea." 

fAmphitrite, Poseidon's fair consort, was also powerful 
at sea. She was figured as a beautiful woman, with a net 
on her hair, and crabs' claws on her forehead. She gener- 
ally appeared in Neptune's car, but sometimes rode a ma- 
rine animal. Her statue was in Corinth. 

JOceanus resided in the ocean-stream that was fabled 
everywhere to encompass the known world, and his palace 
was far to the westward, toward the setting sun. From 
him proceeded all the watery element — rivers, lakes and 
seas. He was the ocean personified. He was rather a 
powerful monarch than a god, but to him mariners sacri- 
ficed with great care on going on long voyages. He is 
represented as an old man, seated on the sea, and dwelt in 
its depths. 

" 'Where aged Ocean holds his watery reign." 

* Dryden«..iEneid. Bk. I. 

i Cox.— Arj'an Mythology, II, 6. 

i Diad, XIV, 3« ; XXI, 195. 


* Tethys was his consort, and the Oceanids, three thou- 
sand ocean nymphs, his daughters. Libations and sacrifices 
were made to them. 

I Oceanus is the personification of the sea itself, first 
imagined to surround the earth like a river, never ending. 

J Proteus und Nereus were two divinities residing in the 
deep sea, only inferior to Neptune. Both were gifted with 
wisdom, but Proteus could change his shape at will. 
(Apollodorus asserts this of Nereus, also.) 

" Proteus, a name tremendous o'er the main, 
The delegate of Neptune's watery reign " 

says Homer; and Virgil further tells us: 

§ " In the Carpathian bottom makes abode 

The shepherd of the sea, a prophet and a god; 
High o'er the main in watery pomp he rides. 
His azure car and finny coursers guides, - 
Proteus his name." 

He traditionall}' kept the seals belonging to his father 
(Neptune's) herds. To him Telemachus resorted for ad- 

Camoens speaks of 

J " The consecrated waters of the deep 

Where Proteus' cattle all their gambols keep." 

Proteus possessed this power of changing his shape at 
will (a characteristic of all the water-people) to the greatest 
extent; hence our -wovA protean. 

** Nereus, son of Pontus, was a prophetic sea-god, and 
father of the Nereids, the nymphs of the wave, fift}' in 
nurhber. Amphitrite and Thetis, both ocean queens, were 
among the number. Nereus is represented as an old man. 
with long flowing hair, and he dwelt in the .(Egean Sea, in a 
beautiful palace. 

If The Nereids were ocean-naiads. The names are from 
the same root, and are connected with naval, nix, Niobe, 
and other maritime words. The Nereids represent the 
qualities and properties of the sea, and are represented as 
half woman, half fish. The}' are, therefore, the ancestors of 

♦ Cox. — Aryan Mythology, II, 6. 

+ Keary. — Outlines of Primitive Belief. 

t Cox.— Aryan Jlythology, II, 236. 

8 Georgics IV. — Dryden's Translation. 

ILufiad, I, 19. 

*» Cox.— Aryan Mythology, Bk. II, p. 256. 

tt Cox.— Aryan Mythology, Bk. II, Ch. 6. 


a tribe of mermaids, such as we sliall meet farther on. 
They attended the superior gods, and had altars on the sea- 
shore, where sacrifices were made to them. They came out 
of their dwellings when the waves arose. Anciently they 
were represented as very beautiful. Polybius first gave 
them the fish-tail. 

They assisted the Argonauts, when sent by Juno. 

* " Here o'er the sailing pine the nymphs preside, 
While Thetis' forceful hands the rudder guide, 
As oft in shoals the sportive dolphins throng. 
Circling the vessel as she sails along." 

Panope and Thetis were especially invoked by sailors. 

f Aphrodite possessed limited powers over the waves. 
Her name is derived from Aphros, foam, and, like Derceto 
and Atergatis, she sprang from the sea. Hesiod says:! 

" Her gods and men 
Name Aphrodite, goddess of the foam. 
Since in the sea-foam nourish'd." 

" Thy imperial sway extends 
O'er the wide seas." 

§ She represents the dawn, and, in her car, is attended by 
the Hours and Graces. She first landed at Cythera, and 
Cyprus was the chief seat of her worship. She became the 
goddess of love, and, as Venus in Rome, lost many of her 
maritime attributes. Temples were numerous to her, espe- 
cially at Athens, Sparta, and among the islands of the Gre- 
cian Archipelago. A rude stone first represented her, but 
later artists carved those beautiful representations, a few of 
which still exist. She had various surnames as goddess of 
the sea, all connected with it, as Pontia, Epipontia, Eualia, 
Marina, Pelagia, Thalassia, and Pontogenia. Living sacri- 
fices were seldom offered to her. 

Phorcus was another sea-divinity. He represents the 
whitening sea-foam. He was keeper of marine monsters, 
and his consort was Keto (whale). 

Zeus, or Jupiter, as great god of the heavens and air, was 
powerful above all other gods on land or at sea. Storms 
were sent b}' him, and mariners sacrificed to him. At the 
Bosphorus was an altar to Zeus Quirnos, serfder of favor- 
able winds. 

* Appolonius Rhodius.— Ar<ronautics. Fawkes' Trans. IV. 1092. 

tCox-— Mytholoffy Aryan Nations, Bk. II, Ch. 2. 

X Hesiod. — Tbeoffony. 

S Cox. — Arj-an Mytlioloyy, Bk. II. 


* Sophocles says: 

"Jove desires a favoring breeze." 

Juno, nurtured by Oceanus, was also a favorite of mari- 
ners. Homer says: 

f " By Juno's guardian aid, tlie watery vast 

Secure of storms, your royal brother passed." 

She is said to have driven Hercules out of his course by 
raising a storm. 

To the Argonauts: 

J "Juno, propitious to her favorite crew, 
Inspir'd the breezes that serenely blew." 

Alcyone, when her husband was in danger, prays to her 
for aid : 

§"AI1 pow'rs implored, but far above the rest. 
To Juno she her pious vows address'd. 
Her much-lov'd lord from perils to protect. 
And safe o'er seas his voyage to direct." 

II Minerva, or Athene, reputed author of navigation, and 
builder of the ship "Argo," was especially reverenced by 
Attic mariners. As a warlike goddess, she was especial 
patroness of military seamen. 

When incensed against the Greeks, — 

**" Hence on the guilty race her vengeance hurl'd. 

With storms pursued them through the liquid world." 

And she assures Telemachus, — 

ff " My power shall guard thee, and my hand convey; 
The winged vessel studious I prepare. 
Through seas and realms, companion of thy care.'' 

She was reputed daughter of Jupiter, and was also called 
Pallas. Hence when Ulysses is beset by storms, we read, — 

J:t" Jove's daughter, Pallas, watched the favoring hour; 
Back to their caves she bade the winds to fly, 
And hushed the blustering brethren of the sky." 

*Iphigenia lii Tauris. 

+ Odyssey, Bk. IV. Pope's Trans. 

t Appolonius Rhodius. — Argonautica. IV. 689. 

§ Ovid. — Metamorphoses. Ceyx & Alcyone. 

«Cox.— Arran M.vtholosr.v, Bk. II, Ch. 2. 

*• Pope's ddvssey, Bk. V. 

+t Pepsi's Odyssey, Bk. IV. 

^ Pope's Odyssey, Bk. V. 


In the later Greek period, her worship increased, and she 
finally usurped the place of Poseidon, as chief Mariner's 

./Eolus, as lord of the winds, had power over the deep, 

*"His word alone the listening storms obey 
To smooth the deep, or swell the foamy sea,'' 

although he was subject to Jupiter, and responsible to Nep- 
tune and other superior deities. 

Greek mariners also venerated the other winds, and sac- 
rificed to them, to Boreas especially, as we saw in the last 

f Artemis, or Diana, possessed limited power at sea, and, 
as goddess of the chase, was especially adored by fishermen. 
Says Virgil, — 

"As Helenus enjoin'd, we next adore 
Diana's name, protectress of the shore.'' 

She was a moon-goddess, supposed to be the same as 
Isis, whom we have seen as an especial patron of navigation. 
The Tauri, in the Crimean peninsula, worshiped a goddess 
corresponding to her, and sacrificed shipwrecked strangers 
to her. The Greek fleet, sailing for Troy, were wind-bound, 
and were commanded by a soothsayer to sacrifice Iphigenia 
to Diana, but a goat was eventually substituted. Fish were 
sacred to Diana. 

Apollo, the great god of the Delphic temple, was espe- 
cially venerated by mariners, and had numerous seaside 
temples. Upon Mount Actium stood his statue, visible far 
at sea, at once a guide and a safeguard to mariners. Augus- 
tus sacrificed to it before the great battle fought there. A 
celebrated temple to him stood on Mount Leucas, alike also 
visible far at sea. As Apollo Delphinius, in the guise of a 
dolphin, he conducted a ship-load of sailors to his sanctuary, 
where they became his priests.| 

Priapus, god of fertility, was also venerated by fisher- 

Glaucus was also a fisherman's deity, and was a son of 
Poseidon. Camoens tells us he was 

' ' The god who once the human form did know, 
And by the power of poisonous herb was made 
To take the shape of fish." 

* Pope's Odyssey, Bk. X. 

i Cox.— Aryan Mytholo^, Bk. II, Ch. 6. 

tOox.— Aryan Mythology, VoL II, p. 35. 


* He was fabled a fisherman, and observing that half-dead 
fish bit the grass and were revived, he attempted it and be- 
came a fish. It was a belief in Greece that once a year he 
visited all the coasts and islands, prophesying. He is repre- 
sented as an old man, dripping with water from his hair and 
beard, his breast covered with sea-weed, and the lower part 
of his body fish-shaped. He represented the play of fantas- 
tic waves. He had a hand in building the mystic ship 

f Ino, or Leucothea, and her son Melicertes, or Palaemon, 
were also deities of the sea, being made such by Poseidon. 
Ino threw herself into the sea with her son, to escape one of 
the Furies. As Leucothea she appeared to Odysseus when 
wrecked, and saved him. She was invoked to save from 
wreck, and so was Palaemon, who is figured riding on a dol- 
phin. Ino was granddaughter to Poseidon. 

Portumnus was the Roman god of harbors, and a grand 
temple was raised to him at Ostia, and a festival annually 
held there on the 7th of August. 

The Dioscuri, or twin sons of Leda, and brothers of 
Helen, were universally revered by mariners. We shall 
see them appearing to the Argonauts as stars, and another 
legend says the)' took part in the expedition. Thej" were 
able to avert shipv.Teck and to save wrecked people. The 
legends concerning their agenc}' in the St. Elmo light will 
be related. In Sophocles' " Electra," Castor says, — 

' ' But we with speed to the Sicilian deep. 
To guard the adventurous barks of those who stem 
The ocean, must repair." 

And Horace: 

i ' ' Thus the twin stars indulgent save 
The shatter'd vessel from the wave." 

Likewise, from Appolonius Rhodius: 

g".Ye guardian twins, who aid our great designs, 
By humble prayer the heavenly powers incline, 
To steer me safe to each Ausonian bay." 

*' Safeguards of sailors, who the twins implore 
When on the deep the thundering tempests roar." 

* Cox.— Arvan JIj-tholog-T, Vol. II, 237. 

•t Co.t.— Axyau Mrthologv, Vol. II, 205. 

t CarminaJBk. IV, ode 8. 

§ Appolonius Hhodius.—Argonautics. Fawkes' Trans. Bk. I. 


*And Theocritus: 

"Still you the wreck can save, the storm dispel. 
And snatch the sailors from the jaws of hell. 
The winds disperse, the roaring waves subside. 
And smooth to stillness, sleeps the lunar tide." 

Hyginus says Neptune conferred upon them the power 
of aiding mariners, and Pausanius calls them Anactes (chiefs). 
They were made constellations, as Gemini. 

Triton was also an inferior sea-deity. He was a son of 
Poseidon, and dwelt in the sea. Was powerful at sea, and 
could calm the waves. He is generally shown blowing a 
shell, and is figured man above, and fish below, the waist. 
He often attends upon Poseidon's car. There were in later 
times a crowd of Tritons, half man and half fish, and the 
name was afterwards used to indicate the merman. 

Triton says to the Argonauts: 

f " Hear, from my sire, the monarch of the main; 
I boast my science; o'er these scenes I reign." 

Triton is thus described by Appolonius. 

X " His every limb, down to his swelling loin, 
Proclaim'd his likeness to the powers divine; 
Below his loins, his tapering tail extends, 
Arched like a whale's, on either side it 'oends." 

Pliny represented him with a single tail, like a dolphin, 
with hands like shells, and head covered with them, and 
with green eyes. Pausanius says: " I have seen another Tri- 
ton among the curiosities of the Romans, but it is not so 
large as this of the Tanagrians. The form of the Triton is 
this: the hair of the head resembles the parsley that grows 
in marshes; the rest of their body is rough with small scales; 
they have fish-gills under their ears; their nostrils are those 
of a man, but their teeth are broader and like those of a 
wild beast; their eyes seem to me azure, and their hands, 
fingers and nails are of the lorm of the shells of shell-fish; 
they have, instead of feet, fins under their breast and belly, 
like those of th^ porpoise." 

Sometimes they are figured with the forefeet of a horse. 

Cybele was also a maritime deity. Mopsus says: 

*Idyllics.^Fawkes' Trans. XHI. 

+ Appolonius Rhodlus. — Argonautics. Fawkes' Trans. 1. 1910. 

t Appotoaius Rhodius. — Argonautics. Fawkes' Traos. 


• " Haste, to the fane of Dyndimus repair. 
There Cybele with sacrifices implore, 
So will the winds tempestuous cease to roar." 

Doris, wife of Nereus, and mother of the Nereids, was a 
divinity of note among mariners, who also venerated the 
gods of their particular district. Rivers were deified, and 
many had priests dedicated to their service. 

Among the ancestors of the Greeks, we also find mari- 
time deities; not, however, so abundant, nor so universally 
worshiped. The early Aryans were acquainted with the 
Caspian Sea, but most of their maritime deities are gods of 
the atmospheric sea. In fact, we find that they, like their 
descendants, confounded the aerial and the aqueous seas. 
As Kelly says, j- " The origin of most water-gods and nymphs 
of the European Aryans may be traced back to the storm 
and rain deities of the parent stock, and the greater part of 
the myths relating to the sea are to be understood as pri- 
marily applying, not to the earthly, but the cloud-sea, for 
no other great collection of waters was known to the first 
Aryans in their inland home." 

J So we find Indra, god of the firmament, and chief deity 
of the atmosphere, governing the weather and dispens- 
ing thunder, lightning and rain. He was the ruler of 
the storm. Rudra, "howler," or " terrible," was, however, 
directly god of storms, the leader of the Maruts, and 
sender of numerous ills. He controlled the winds, like 
the Greek yEolus. 

But Varuna, " coverer," was god of the seas and rivers, the 
Indian Neptune. § A fish was his sign, the wind his breath. 
He was rather god of the heavenly sea, but soon became 
lord of all waters. Like Neptune, he provided a home for 
man. He has other names, meaning lord of the waters 
TKesa), watery hair (Vari-Iowa), and king of aquatic animals 
(Yadah-pati). His wife Varuni sprang from the ocean, and 
is also goddess of wine. 

Varuna is represented as an old man, with a club and a 

II Vayu is the Hindoo Zephyr. His name means wind. 
He is closely associated with Indra, and often rides in his 
chariot. He is also called Marut. 

*Appolonius Rhodius. — Argooautics. Fawkea' Trans. 1,1417. 
+ Curiosities of Indo-Eiiropean Traditions, p. 2L 
t Cox.— Aryan Jtythology,- Vol. I, p. 336. oh. I-III. 
§ Cox.— Aryan Mj'thology, Vol. I. p. 330. oh. I-II. 
li Keafy. — Outlines of Primitive Belief, 142. 


*Thc Maruts are sons of Rudra, or of Indra, and are 
storm-gods, variously stated as from twenty-seven to one 
hundred and eighty in number. They are armed with 
thunderbolts, and are feared as storm-bringers. 

f The Apsaras are nymphs of the heavenly sea. Their 
name signifies "moving in the waters." Originally personi- 
fications of the vapors and cloud-mists, they became the 
houris of the Hindoo heaven. They are also called Nsivyah, 
or celestial navigators. The Ramayana says (Wilson), — 

"Then from the agitated deep upsprung 
The legion of Apsarases, so named 
That to the watery element they owed 
Their being." 

X Lakshmi, like Aphrodite, sprang from the sea-foam 
and floated ashore on the lotus at creation. She was the 
fisherman's goddess, and had four arms. 

The Scandinavian gods of the sea may next claim our 
attention. So maritime a people could not but have many 
deities of the watery element. 

§ Odin, the all-father, and most powerful god, sent storms 
and controlled the waves. As such a powerful god, storm 
and rain bringer, he became Hnickar, and we shall find him 
again when we consider the demons of the sea. Odin visited 
Sigurd's ship in this guise, boarding it from an island at 
sea, and the storm ceased on his landing. 

He is the Psychopomp, or Soul-carrier, of Norse Mythol- 
ogy, and, granting safe voyages to the soul, naturally became 
a maritime god. 

11 Thor, Odin's son, ruled the tempest and clouds, sent 
thunder, and dashed the waves against the coast. He raised 
a storm and sank the great sea-serpent Jormungandr to the 
bottom of the ocean. 

But Niord (the Nereus of the North) was chief god of 
the ocean. He was also called Vanagir and Mordur. He 
dwelt in Noatun, "place of ships," ruled the ocean and 
wind, had fishing and maritime pursuits under his care, was 
invoked by sailors and fishermen, and sacrifices were made 
to him by sea-coast people. He represents the mild sea of 
the coast. His wives were Nerthus and Skadi (hurtful), and 

♦Keary.— Outlines of Piimltive Belief, 149. 

+ Kelly.— Curiosities of Indo-European Traditions, 21. 

t Cox.— Aryan Mythology, Bk. II, Ch. 8. 

§ Thorpe.— Northern Mj-thology, Vol. I, p. 96. 

I Thorpe.— Northern Mythology, Vol. I, pp. 24 and 195 ; Sffimundr Edda, 20. 


the latter came from Thrymheim, home of the winds. Their 
children, Freyr and Freya, were powerful at sea, and were 
w^orshiped by sailors. 

* Freya was in Shetland Vatia-dis, or water-goddess, and 
her day, Friday, has been sacred to sailors for centuries, 
and hence an unlucky one for voj'ages. 

\ The representative of Oceanus, the dweller in the deep 
sea, was CEgir (ogre, terrible), or Hler, the god of the raging 
sea, whose waves boil with his kettle. His wife was Ran 
(plunder, robbery), and his nine daughters, the waves. Ran 
is the northern Amphitrite. She takes in her net all persons 
drowned at sea, and even lurks beneath the ice for them. 
" Fara til Rana" (go to Ran) meant to drown. 

Thus we find, in Tegner's " Frithjof's Saga," — 

X ' ' Let none go empty-handed 
Down to azure Ran. 
Icy are her kisses. 
Fickle her embraces. 
But we'll charm the sea-bride 
With our ruddy gold." 

" For us, in bed of ocean 
Azure pillows Ran prepares." 

§ " May Rana keep 
Them in the deep, 
As is her wont." 

CEgir's name is from the same root as that from which 
Ocean is derived, and the ogre of the nursery becomes the 
<?r£a or sea-monster of the middle ages, and possibly the roc, 
that bird of terror to middle-age travelers.! 

Other European peoples have had their divinities of the 
sea. Holda, an old German goddess, could ride on sea and 
waves, and was feared by sailors.* * Fasolt is invoked as 
god of storms in an old formula, his brother Ecke ruled 
over waves and floods, and Merment was also a storm-deity. 

Ecke, sa5's Grimm,f f was the same as QEgir. So Niord 
became Nerthus, the Germanic Neptune. 

Neptune was worshiped in Roman Gaul, and a large 
mosaic picture of him was found at Pau, and has, as one of 
his symbols, the cross. 

♦Blind.— Contemporary Review, Aug., 1880. 

+ Thorpe.— Xorthern M j-thology, Vol. I, pp. 27, 19C, 200. 

tTaylor's Trans. 

ISirarock.— Deutsche Mj-thologie, Vol. I, p. 507. 

il Slmrock. — Deutsche M^'thologle, .507. 

** Thorpe.— Northern M.rthology, Vol. I, p. 234. 

++ Teutonic Mythology. Eng. Trans., Vol. I, p. 298. 


Nav was an old British god of the waters,* Neith a Celtic 
water-goddess, Man-a-nan an Irish sea-deity, and Avaron, 
Welsh lord of the deep. 

f Hu Gadarn, the Welsh Noah, became the Celtic Nep- 
tune, and Nev was also a water deity. 

Albion, patronymic deity of Britain, and son of Neptune, 
was reputed a sea-deity, and introduced ship-building into 
Great Britain. 

I Geofon was, says Grimm, an old Anglo-Saxon sea-god. 

Shony was a water-divinity to whom Shetland fisher- 
men poured out a libation, as we shall see in a subsequent 

§ Lir was a Celtic Neptune. 

Ostyak sailors venerated spirits in the river Obi. JVuml 
is a Samoyed water-god. Storjunkove is a Lapp deity, 
appearing to fishermen and bringing them luck.** Seose- 
res was a Circassian wind and water god. In the Finnish 
Kalevala, Ahto is the lord of the waves;ff Tuoletan chief 
deity of the sea; Ween Kummingas, king of the sea, and 
Weenemauta, queen of the sea, while Akka, queen of straits 
and passes, is often seen on the rocks combing her long 
hair.jj Poznisky was a Slavonian water-god, causing 
storms and tempests. 

In Eastern story, Alrinach is a divinity powerful at sea, 
appearing in the guise and dress of woman. In Mohamme- 
dan legend, JEgcr is a sort of god of the sea. Muthiam, 
king of evil spirits, is feared and reverenced by East Indian 

§§ Kidir or Chidder was Arab god of voyages and brother 
of Elias, who ruled the wind. 

II II In Whydah, Africa, Hu is sea-god, and the king an- 
nually sends a young man as a sacrifice, to be thrown into 
the sea. In Dahomej', it is Abue. Du Chaillu says a 
spirit, Mbuiri, is supposed to exist in a stream at Ngounyai 
Falls. Wanika and Akra tribes have water-deities, and 
Kaffirs sacrifice oxen or millet to river-gods. 

Dale says some tribes gave a fetich to the waves for 

' G. Massey.— Book of the Beginnings. 

•t Davies.— British Mythology. 

tTeut. Mythology, 1, 329. 

§ Gen'l Vallery . Proceedingfl Irish Archaeological Sec. 

II Conway.— Demonology, 1, 213. 

*• Thorpe.— Northern Mythology, Vol. II, from Castren, Finn Mythology. 

+ + Fraser's-Mag. Vol. V, p. 320, from Castren. 

i t Kalevala. — Le Due's Translation to French. 

§§ D. Ohsson.— Hist. Ottoman Empire, 1821. Brewer, R.H.B. 

I II Burton.— Dahomey, VoL H, p. 165. 


Numba, ocean spirit. In Loango the king is a god, Santo, 
and has power over the winds and waves. A Basuto god, 
dwelling on the bottom of the sea, is Ramochasoa.* 

Crossing the Atlantic, we find an almost universal belief 
in water-gods among tribes near large bodies of water. 
Greenland Esquimaux, believed in a huge god, the giant 
Kayaker; Kamtchatkans think storms are raised by Mitgh,f 
a spirit of the water, with fish-like extremities. Tongarsuk 
is also a storm deity in Greenland, as well as a goddess, his 
mother, Arnar Kuasak, who lives in a palace beneath the 
waves guarded by seals, and from it sends forth the animals 
of the sea. Storms are also raised by Kayarissat {^Basking- 

J Pampagussit was a sea-god of New England Indians. 

§ Dacotah Indians believed in Unktahee, first god of 
the water, and the O jib way water-god was a toad. Long- 
fellow says, — 

\ ' ' Broke the treacherous ice beneath him. 
Dragged him downward to the bottom. 
Buried in the sand his body. 
Unktahee, the god of water, 
He the god of the Dacotahs, 
Drowned him in the deep abysses 
Of the lake of Gitchec Gumee." 

** J. A. Jones gives a tradition of the Indian tribes of 
an ancestral fish-god who conducted them from Asia to 

The Kaibalit tribe of Arizona Indians believed in a 
watter-goddess, Tilcompa Masoits (grandmother goddess of 
the sea), who brought mankind and speech out of the sea. 

f I Mexican tribes regarded Coxcox or Cipactli as lord of 
the waters, and JJ Tlaloc also as water-god. Opochtli was 
their god of fishing and fishermen. Nets were consecrated 
to him. Chalcihuitlicue §§ was goddess of the water in 
Tlascalla, and could raise storms and sink canoes. 

Ill A Mexican proverb says: " We are all of us children of 
Chal" water-goddess. 

♦ African Folk-Lore Journal, Vol. L 

•t Steller. — Kamtchatka. 

t Maine Historical Coll., Vol. II, p. 110. 

S Eastman.— Dakota, p. 118, 125. 

1 Hiawatha, Ch. 16. 

** B. Gould, Myths of Middle Ages, " Melaaina." 

tt Clavigero-Mejico, Vol. VI, p. 1-4. 

» Bancroft.— Native Races, Vol. VII, p. 336. 

§§ Bancroft.— Vol. II, p. 363. 

ei Tylor.— Primitive Culture, Vol I, p. 258. 


*The Chiachas, a Peruvian tribe, regarded Marua-cocha 
as the water-god. They scooped up a handful of water at 
each river, drank it, and begged the deity to allow them to 
cross. Manco Capac and Mama Oello, who arose from lake 
Titicaca, were Quichua gods, and mythical ancestors of 
their royal line.f 

J But "Viracocha" (white seafoam-god) was chief Pe- 
ruvian deity of the sea. He also arose from Lake Titicaca, 
bringing the arts and sciences with him. A temple long 
existed near Callao, dedicated to him. Peruvians had also 
a sea-god with a lobster's head and claws, and a man's 
body. The Muyscas said Chia, the moon, was goddess of 
the water. In the ancient Zac empire, a goddess was 
thought to live at the bottom of Lake Guatavita. Wicha- 
ana was Zapatecan god of fish. 

The Botocudos of Venezuela believed in a water-god — 

§ Polynesian sea-gods were numerous. Tawhiri-ma- 
tea and Taaruatai were the Neptunes of one tribe in the 
Society Islands, and Ruhahatu of another. Another deity 
is Akaenga, the master of the lower waters, who catches 
souls in a net, and washes them about in it. 

II A Maori sea-god is Tangaroa. Fish and reptiles are 
his children. 

**Ika-terej his son, was also "father of fish." 
. f f In Australian myths, Nguk Wonga is the spirit of the 

II In the Hervey Group, Vatea is lord of the ocean, and 
became a whirlpool. He is figured one side man, the other 
shark, having one human eye, hand, foot, and ear, and the 
other organs those of a shark. He was great lord of , the 
ocean, and father of gods and men. He invented nets and 

In a prayer of great antiquity, — 

§§ " Vatea is the guardian of the ocean. 
By him is it ruffled, 
By him it is calmed. " 

♦G. de la Vega.— Commentarios Beales, Vol. VI, p. IT, in Tyler (5). 

t Herrera. — Los Indies, 4-285. 

tPreacott.— Peru, I, p. 7. 

I Grey.— Polynesian Mythology, p. 3. 

IGill.— Myths and Song:s of the South Paciflo (12). 

"Tylor.— Primitive Culture, Vol. I, p. 259. 

tt Eyre.— AustraUa. 

tt Gill.— Myths and Songs of the South Paciflo (a>. 

U GilL- Myths and Songs of the South Pacific (3>. 


In a song, — 

" Oh! let the storm be restrained, 
Vatea, god of winds." 

He lived in a mysterious land. His brother, Timiran, is 
lord of fish,* and half sprat. He lives in the sacred isle. 
Tikokura is the storm-wave. His home is in the ocean. 
Raka (trouble), the god of winds, lives there also. The 
winds and storms are his children, each one blowing 
through a hole in the horizon, and he controls them. 

f The Fijian fishermen's god is Roko Vona; another is 
Vosavakandua, and they have many minor gods, called 
Luve-ni-mai (children of the water). Little flags are set 
up when they are about to land, to prevent them from 
taking to the woods. 

The fisherman's god in Ranatonga is a cocoanut-leaf, 
bound up with sennit, called Iku-ko-kua. At Mangaia, it 
was the frond of a cocoanut, bound with sennit. This is 
supposed to be powerful in allaying storms, and is called a 
Mokoiro, and is affixed to the prows of the boats. A cer- 
tain priestly family perform this ceremony, and no one 
thinks of going to sea without these attachments. In 
Ranai, one of the Sandwich Islands, two large stone im- 
ages, seen by Ellis, represented Raeapua and Kaneapua, 
sea-deities worshiped by fishermen. Another sea-god was 
Mooarii, a shark. On each point of land, temples were 
erected to him, and the first fish of the catch were given to 
him. The)r had other sea and weather-gods, and during a 
storm at sea they offered up a. pule kurana, a kind of prayer. 

A shell-fish called Uva was also a Fijian deit)^ 

A Hawaiian god was Kunra, and Hina, a goddess, who 
we're supposed to drive the annual shoals of fish to the 
island, and hence were adored by fishermen. 

JHiro was a Tahitian sea-god. While asleep in the 
ocean, the wind-god raised a storm, but he was aroused, 
and lulled the waves to rest. 

Kahai Khani is a Tartar " Prince of the Sea." Maui- 
Megala is a Pegu divinity, daughter of the lord of the sea. 

Burmese sailors and fishermen dedicate fruits, rice, etc., 
to Nat, or the spirit of the waters, who would otherwise 
destroy the fish. 

Riu-to is Japanese god of the bottom of the sea, and is 

•GiU.— Mj-ths and Songs of the South Pacific (5). 
+ GiU.— MVths and Songs of the South Pacific. 
♦ Grey.— Polynesian Mythology. 




shown as a dwarfish figure, bearing a lantern on his head. 
He, as well as Midsumo-Kami,* a water-god, and Jebisu, a 
sea-god, is adored by fishermen. Tusannoo-no-Mikato, 
brother of the sun-god, is also god of the sea. 

In Japanese legendary history, the gods of the sea and 
air assembled to assist a great queen against Corea. Kai- 
Ku-O, dragon-king of the sea, sent his messenger Isora, 
with jewels that controlled the tides. 

fThe Chinese god of the sea, Tsuikvan, was one of the 
three spirits attendant on Fo or Cang-Y, god of the lower 
heaven. Navigators sacrificed to him. Kemung is a god 
of storms in China. 

Ma Chua is a great sailor-goddess. She is figured as a 
grotesque idol, and has numerous temples. One at Ningpo 
is very large. Her image is also kept in exchanges. She 
was the daughter of a seafaring man. She dreamed she 
saw her father in a storm and in danger, and exerted 
herself to save him. She is called queen of heaven, holy 
mother, and other titles. Sailors take ashes from incense- 
lamps in front of her shrines, and carry them in a red bag, 
or hang them about the junk. |When storms occur, they 
kneel at the bow (the sacred part of their junks), and burn 
incense before her image, imploring her to save them. 
They make offerings to her on arriving safely from sea. 
Among her attributes are Favorable-mind ear, and Thou- 
sand-mile eye, seeing and hearing danger afar off 

§ Tien -how is another tutelary goddess of sailors. In 
every large junk her shrine is placed, having her image in 
a glass case, and inscriptions to her. Homage was paid 
her, and especial honors in sailing and landing. 

Staunton says, " Foong-ah-Vanny is a sailor's god." 
Sailors in Canton junks worship a goddess with the formid- 
able name of Chao-Chao-Laong-Koo, who saved many junks 
from wreck. 

A recent writer says: || " Kwun-ing (Kemung? or 
Marehu ?) is their chief divinity, seemingly amalgamated 
with the 'queen of heaven,' and as a goddess her peculiar 
delight is to save those that are in danger by sea. She can 
assume thirty-two different shapes, and proceed to different 
parts of the world on her missions of mercy. In Buddhism, 
she holds the highest place as a savior of mankind." 

•Siebold.— Nippon, Part V., p. 9. 

+ Grant. — Mysteries of AH Nations, p. 54. 

tDoolittle.— Manner and Custom of tlie Chinese, 1-263. 

% Jones.— Credulities, p. 44. II Gibbons.— Boxing the Compass. 


* River sailors are devotees of Loong Moo, the dragon- 
mother. Shrines are placed along the banks, and cere- 
monies and sacrifices of fowls made in the boats before 

The origin and development of these ideas with regard 
to the gods of the watery element are plainly apparent. 
The primitive mind deals not in abstract ideas of a deity, 
but requires some typical representative constantly before 
it. Thus nature worship was prevalent among our ancest- 
ors, as it still is among savages and half-civilized people. 
So the sky, the air, the earth and the sea are at first them- 
selves deities, and the names of many primitive gods dis- 
cover their identity with the objects they represent: Dyaus 
(the sky), Varuna (the coverer), Thor (the thunderer), are 
examples of this.f At first the gods of the elements are 
the gods of the watery sea. So among the early Aryans, 
Varuna is lord of atmospheric and ocean seas. But as the 
Greeks especially became acquainted more and more with 
the sea in all its aspects, these gods were multiplied, and a 
chief god of the sea was created or borrowed from some 
other maritime nation. Every characteristic of the ocean 
depths was reproduced in some god, and so the Greek Pan- 
theon abounded in maritime deities. In the Norse the- 
ogony, parallels to these are found. The chief difference is 
one of climate. There in the North, the terrible sea had a 
greater impression on the mariner than the mild, sunny 
wave of the south, and thus the gods are more fierce and 
terrible, and CEgir and Ran had perhaps more worshipers 
than Niord and Frey. 

The first effects of Christianity upon these heathen ideas 
were two-fold. For, while the vows and oblations paid to 
Neptune, CEgir, or some inferior deity were by the teach- 
ings of the church transferred to the virgins and saints, not 
immediately was the memory of these heathen gods lost. 
So, not being able to suppress them, the church set to vvork 
to degrade them. We consequently find many of the gods 
are become demonized, and Odin, the beneficent wind- 
giver, is Nick, the demon of the sea, and the Devil himself, 
who is in fact a degraded god (the Indian Deva) has his 
representative in the ocean depths, under the name of Davy 

"Jones. — Credulities, p. 47. 

+ See Max MUUer.— Essay on mytholoey lu " Chips from a German Work- 


To the many gods of antiquity, then, succeeded the one 
god of Mohammedan and Christian religions. But the con- 
servative mariner still retained memories of the once pow- 
erful gods of the sea. Not only did the .Catholic mariner 
believe that Christ stilled the waves, and still possesses 
power to save from peril, but he also attributed to the 
Virgin and saints unusual powers over the winds and waves. 
To this day he trusts in their aid in time of peril and to 
them he makes his vows, and dedicates his memorial tablets 
or votive offerings. The Virgin is patroness of innumer- 
able sea-side temples and chapels, and "Our Lady of the 
Waves," and of Blachernes, are only ready examples of a 

*As early as 200 A.D., we find her aid efficacious. The 
Varangians, under Askold and Dir, attacked Constantinople 
about that time, with a Russian fleet, and the good Bishop 
Photius was able to raise a storm and destroy this fleet with 
the mantle of Our Lady of Blachernes, by spreading it on 
the waves. 

I A legend of Boulogne, in 663, relates that while the in- 
habitants were at prayers, a ship without guide or pilot 
came sailing in with the Virgin on board, and she indicated 
to the people a site for her chapel. 

J The Virgin, as related in the account of spectral lights 
and apparitions, saved from shipwreck jEthelsiga (in the i ith 
century), the Earl of Salisbury (1220), Edward IIL, and 
Edward IV. of England. The former monarch, overtaken 
in the English channel by a storm, exclaimed, " Oh! blessed 
Mary, holj' Lady! why is it, and what does it portend, that 
in going to France I enjoyed a favorable wind, a calm sea, 
and all things prospered v/ith me; but on returning to Eng- 
land, all kinds of misfortunes befall me?" The storm, the 
account says, immediately subsided. 

The latter sovereign " pra)'ed to God, our Lad)-, and Saint 
George, and amonges other sa3'nts he specially prayed Seint 
Anne to help him." 

§ Joinville says a sailor who fell overboard during the 
voj'^age of St. Louis to France, was asked why he did not 
swim. He replied that it was only necessary to exclaim, 
" Our Lady of Valbert! ", and that she supported him by the 
shoulders until he was picked up. 

'Jones— Broad, Broad Ocean, p. 233. 

i Collin de Plancy. — Legendes Pieuses du Moyen Age. 

t Jones. — Credulities, p. 34. 

IJones.— Credulities, p. 35. 


There was a statue at Venice, according to Fynes Mory- 
son, that performed great miracles. A merchant vowed 
perpetual gifts of wax candles, in gratitude for being saved 
by the light of a candle on a dark night. This statue and 
that of St. Mark were saluted by ships. 

Erasmus says of the people in the shipwreck, "The 
mariners they were singing their Salva Regina, imploring 
the Virgin Mother, calling her the Star of the Sea, the 
Queen of Heaven," etc. " In ancient times Venus took care 
of mariners, because she was supposed to be born of^ the 
sea, and because she left off taking care of them, the Virgin 
Mother was put in her plaqe." He says one sailor tried to 
float ashore on a rotten and worm-eaten image of the Vir- 

The Virgin sent a wind to aid the wind-bound fleet of 
Orendel in the Kleber Meer, according to Middle-age legend. 

* De Plancy .says a tradition at Havswyck, in Holland, 
is that a boat laden with fragments of a church, in 1188, was 
mysteriously stopped at a certain "spot, and could not be 
forced farther on until a chapel to the Virgin was com- 
menced on the spot. 

A tradition existed in Belgium »that an image of the Vir- 
gin was found on the beach by sailors, and became at Lom- 
buzyde an especial mariner's shrine. 

Benecke says a statue of the Virgin was of old placed in 
a niche in Hamburg wall, near a certain landing. Sailors 
and fishermen particularly addressed their vows to her, and 
made offerings in return for successful ventures. In 1470, a 
chapel was built there, and the statue transferred to it. 

f The shrine of Notre Dame de la Garde, at Marseilles, 
whose apparition to boatmen in peril is related in another 
chapter, is the object of great veneration to the Provengal 
sailor. The image of the Virgin was formerly ablaze with 
diamonds, and a silver statue now adorns the altar. 

J Norman sailors, in 1700, particularly believed in the 
saving power of Notre Dame de Deliverance, whose chapel 
stood between Caen and Bayeux. A legend is told of a ship 
coming into the port of Havre, in 1700, whose crew, in great 
peril, vowed their penances to her, but these were of no avail, 
until they were joined by those of the Protestant captain 
and his heretical crew. 

* C!oUiD de Plancy. — Legendes Pieusos du Moyen Age 
+ Collin de Plancy.— Legendes d\i Moyen Age. 
4 Collin de Plancy. — Legendoe Pieuses du Moyen Age. 


Another Norman legend relates that Notre Dame des 
Neiges. in Havre, obligingly sent a concealing snow storm 
to prevent blockaded ships from falling into the enemy's 

* Kingston says: " I am assured that formerly, before 
the days of insurance offices and political economy, mer- 
chants frequently insured their ships at the highly esteemed 
shrine of Matozimbo, by presenting a sum equal to the pay 
of captain or mate, and that, too, without stipulating for 
any. equivalent should the vessel be wrecked." 

Nor were the saints accounted far inferior to the Virgin 
in their wonder-working powers at sea 

Of these saints, St. Anthony was accounted one of the 
most powerful. He was a priest of Padua, and is said to 
have preached a sermon to the fishes, hence is especially a 
fisherman's saint. Accordingly, we find the padrone, in 
Longfellow's " Golden Legend," appealing to him, — 


' Now all is ready, high and low. 
Blow, blow, good Saint Antonio." 

' With the breeze behind us, on we go. 
Not too much, good Saint Antonio! " 

f Pietro delle Valle, a sixteenth-century traveler in the 
East Indies, tells us that the Portuguese kept an image of 
Saint Anthony in their ships and made it responsible for 
the winds. They prayed to it, then, if this were not effect- 
ual, resorted to lashing the image to the mast, as detailed 
in another chapter. 

St. Nicholas was, however, pre-eminently the sailor's 
guardian. He was a saint of Myra, in Italy, and is said to 
have restored a sailor to life, and to have allayed a storm 
while on his way to the Holy Land.| 

§ A company of pilgrims was sailing along on its way to 
Jerusalem, in 900. one of whom had engaged to carry to 
the sacred spot a cruse of oil, given him by an old woman 
just before leaving port. A great storm arose, and St. 
Nicholas appeared, saying: "Fear not, but throw the cruse 
of oil which you carry with you into the sea, for the 
' woman ' who gave it to you was the devil." They did as 

* Ltmitanian Sketches. 

+ Jal. Gloss. Nautlque.— " St. Antoine." 

t Lappeloo and Gras. — Vita Sanctorum. Q. by Brand, I, US 

8 Liber Dlctus Paradlsus. — Malaphrastes. — Brewer In Notes and Queries, 

August, 1881. 


commanded, and the oil swelled and blazed like sulphur, 
while the storm ceased. 

* In the Norman French life of this saint, sailors in a 
storm cry out, "Help, O Lord Saint Nicholas, if thou beest 
such as men say ! " and he appeared and saved them. The 
same life also records these lines: 

" Hear you who go by sea 
Of this Baron we speak, 
Who is in all so kindly 
And at sea so mighty." 

Peter of Langtoft calls him, 

"The Bishop of St. Nicholas, whos help is ey redie, 
To shipmen, in alle seas, whan thei on him crie." 

Mariners in the ^Egean are also said to have called on 
him when in danger of wreck, and he aided them to port. 
The St. Elmo fire was called by Italians, Fires of St. 
Nicholas. Bishop Hall says a Grecian sailor prayed to 
St. Nicholas not to press too hard with his wings on the 
sails. Greek sailors in the seventeenth century took to 
sea thirty loaves of bread, consecrated and named St. 
Nicholas' loaves. In case of a storm, the}'^ were thrown into 
the sea, one by one, until they were efficacious in calming 
the waves. There were some three hundred and seventy 
chapels in England alone to this saint. His church at 
Liverpool was the most celebrated, and was consecrated in 
1361. A local author says, f "In the vicinity there formerly 
stood a statue of St. Nicholas, and when the faith in the 
intercession of saints was more operative than at present, 
the mariners were wont to present a peace-offering for a 
prosperous voyage on their going out to sea, and a wave- 
offering on their return; but the saint, having lost • his 
votaries, has long since disappeared." 

I A mariner in the " Absurda " of Erasmus says he is 
going to dedicate a piece ^of sail-cloth to St. Nicholas, in 
gratitude at having escaped shipwreck. 

§ St. Nicholas' Chapel, near Hythe, England, is thus 
alluded to by an old Kentish author; " This is one of the 

' Where such as had escapt the sea 
Were wont to leave their guif ts. ' 

* In Hampton.— Medii ^vi Kalendarium. 

t Lambarde.— Perambulations of Kent, in Jones' Broad, Broad Ocean, p. 235. 

4: Jones.— Credulities, p. 40. 

i Lambarde. — Perambulations of Kent. 


Inasmuch as if any of the fishermen on this coast had 
hardly escaped the storme, then should Sainct Nicholas nol 
have only the thanks of that deliverance, but also one oi 
more of the best fishes for an offering." 

* There is a legend of a certain altar-screen in the church 
at Arboja, in Sweden,- that testifies the great power of St. 
Nicholas. It had been sunk during a siege by the people 
of a foreign town to escape capture. The Swedes found 
it, however, but found it too heavy to raise. Some one 
suggested to name over all the saints, but all failed to assist 
until St. Nicholas was invoked, when the screen came up. 
It was sent to Arboja, and St. Nicholas became the patron 
of that church. 

f Armstrong in 1756, writes: "Near the entrance to the 
harbor (of Ciudadella) stands a chapel dedicated to St. 
Nicholas, to which the sailors report that had suffered ship- 
wreck, to return thanks for their preservation, and to hang 
up votive pictures representing the dangers they had 
escaped, in gratitude to the Saint for the protection he 
vouchsafed them." 

J Kanaris, the Greek hero of the fire-ships in Chios 
harbor in 1828, went immediately to St. Nicholas' Church, 
after the success of his undertaking, and presented two wax 
tapers to his shrine. 

St. Nicholas is shown in paintings as patron of sailors, 
with an anchor b}- his side, and a fleet in the background. 
In other representations, he is seen on board a sinking ship 
in a storm at sea, and sometimes has a light on his head. 

Hospinian (1531) says the invocation of St. Nicholas by 
mariners took place from the accounts of Vincentius and 
Mantuanus (B. xii. ch. i). 

" Cum turbine nautae 
Deprensi Cilices claraore vocavant 
Nicolai, ^iventes opei'a^ desccndere quidam, 
Coeli tuum visus saiicti sub imagine patiis:— 
Qui freta depulso fecit placidissimus vento." 

§In the Salisbur)- Missal (1540) he is shown resuscitating 
two children who had been cut to pieces and put into a tub. 
Hampton thinks this tub was taken for a boat, and the chil- 
dren for sailors, and in this wa}', he becam.e a maritime 
saint. But we do not need to go so far for the origin of 

♦Jones.— riroad. Broad Ocean, p. 235. 
+ Ann5lin;ij. — History of jMinorca. 
*.J(>nc?. — (^-etlulities. p. iZ 
§ Hampton.- Medii j'Exi ivalenduriiun. 


his power. The legend doubtless owed its origin to the 
degradation of semi-deities alluded to above, by the church. 
As Farrar* says: "The Scandinavian water-spirit Niken, 
inhabitant of lakes and rivers, and raiser of storms, whose 
favor could only be won by sacrifices, became in the middle 
ages St. Nicholas, the patron of sailors and sole refuge in 

St. Peter, as the fisher-apostle, became a maritime saint, 
and was often invoked in storms. The St. Elmo light was 
called St. Peter's fire, as we shall see. 

f Cortez chose him as patron saint; "and beying at sea, 
Cortez willed all his navie to have St. Peter for their patron." 

St. Peter is said to have entered a fisherman's boat on 
the Thames, which at once carried him without oars or sail, 
to the spot which he chose as a site for Westminster Abbey 

I The patron saint of gunners was Santa Barbara, who 
once saved a dwelling from lightning, and the gun room in 
Mediterranean ships as well as the powder-room is still 
called " La Sainte Barbe." 

St. Anne was also powerful to aid in great danger. Ed- 
ward IV. called on her for aid, and we shall see the St. Elmo 
light called St. Anne. 

Some of her miraculous deeds were performed on this 
side of the Atlantic.§ There are in the church of Beaupre, 
in Canada, votive pictures showing ships in distress, with 
this saint hovering over them, to rescue them. She was the 
especial patron saint of Canadian mariners. 

St. Bartholomew is invoked by boatmen on the turbulent 
little Koenig sea in Bavaria, and they cry before embarking: 
" Hoi}' Bartholomew! shall I return ? Say yes." The echo 
responds affirmatively in fine weather, but if it is thick and 
misty, no echo is heard. 

I Brand says St. Hermes was of old a mariner's saint in 
England. He, as well as St. Erasmus, and St. Gonzales de 
Tuy, was connected with the legends concerning the St. 
Elmo light. 

**Fournier says: "It is a custom to invoke St. Telme, 
and to recite an orison. This saint was, during his life, 
greatly devoted to instructing sea-faring men of things per- 
taining to their safety, and likewise in assisting them in 

* Primitive Customs. 

+ Jones. — Credulities, p. 109. 

t Brewer.— Readers' Hand Book. 

i Harper's Magazine, 1881. 

n Popular Antiquities. 1, S64, 

** Hj-drographie, 1643. 


their necessities, and since he died at Tuy, a city of Gallicia, 
and showed himself so favorable and benign to those who 
have invoked him, sailors have taken him as their protector." 

* Victor Hugo says sailors in Guernsey formerly believed 
that St. Maclou lived in a square rock called Ortach, near 
Les Casquets, and they were accustomed to kneel there in 

I St Ronald was a favorite maritime saint in the North. 
Scott says sailors paid their vows to him, to St. Ninian and 
to St. Ringar. 

St. Cyric was invoked by Welsh mariners. | Southe)' 

" The weary mariners 
Called on St. Cyric's aid." 

§ Lambarde writes: "For within memory there were 
standing in Winchelsea, three parish churches, St. Leonard, 
St. Giles and St. Thomas, and in that of St. Leonard there 
was erected the picture of St. Leonard, the patron of the 
place, holding a fane (or .^olus sceptre) in his hand, which 
was movable at the pleasure of any that would Jurne it to 
such pointe of the compass as best fitted the return of the 
husband or other friend, whom they expected." 

II St. James the Greater came to Spain from Palestine 
in a mysterious marble bark without sail or helm. He was 
a patron saint of Spanish sailors. 

St. Genevieve is said to have destro3'ed a tree in a Span- 
ish harbor that, with two attendant demons, wrecked many 
ships. She was tutelary saint of the harbor. 

** St. Mark calmed the sea when his own dead body was 
conveyed from Egj'pt, says Leo Antonio More, in the 
" Description of Africa" (1600). He is patron of Venetian 

ff St. George was appealed to by Sardinian fishermen 
to drive away enemies of the tunny, as being general 
dragon-sla^'er. They also appeal to St. Michael, who was 
with Peter fishing. 

St. Michael, as god of the wind, has been alluded to in 
another chapter. t + A Slavonic legend relates that this 

♦ Les Travailleiirs de la Mer. 
i Scott.— Notes to Pirate. 

§ Perambulations of Kent, in Jones' Ci-edulitiea, p. 30. 
( Baring Crould.— Legends of the Saints. St. James. 
■"Jones.— Credulities, p- 36. 
tlJones. — Credulities p. 70. 
ttConway.— Demonology and Devil-lore. 


saint had a contest with the devil as to which could dive 
the deepest in the sea. When it came Satan's turn to dive, 
the saint caused the sea to freeze over him by making the 
sign of the cross. 

Many saints have had power over the sea, or have caused 
miracles at sea, who were not regarded as maritime saints. 
*Sit. Clement was reverenced by some mariners. The 
anchor is his emblem. He suffered martyrdom', and was 
cast into the sea with an anchor about his neck. The waters 
were driven back, and a chapel appeared over the spot. 

f St. Vincent was also cast into the sea with a millstone 
about his neck, but returned his own body to the shore. 
While on the way to Spain, the body sunk near the cape 
named after him, in the wreck of the ship. .In 1147, 
Alonzo I. returned it, and a crow is said to have perched 
on the prow, and one on the stern of the ship, and guided 
it safely into port. Hence the crow is figured as his em- 

St. Benedict made iron float, embarked on a mat, and 
saved drowning men. He was invoked in shipwrecks. St. 
Christina floated with a millstone about her neck. This is 
shown in a picture at Venice. 

So St. Kea,J surprised at rising tide while at his prayers, 
sailed to shore on the rock on which he was kneeling. 

St. Marculf, in France, in 1558, is said to have destroyed 
a pirate fleet, raising a storm by prayer, and St. Hilarion, 
attacked by pirates at sea, stopped their ship while in full 
headway, so was invoked against pirates in the Mediterra- 

St. Leonore is said to have saved a sinking ship by wav- 
ing a bishop's letter at it. 

At Etretat, in Normandy, is a chapel to St. Sauveur, the 
Holy Savior, who is the fisherman's patron there, as well as 
in many other places. 

§ St. Helena, who allayed a storm by throwing a piece of 
the holy cross overboard; St. Asclas, who stopped a boat in 
the Nile by his prayers; St. Loman, who sailed on the Boy ne 
against wind and tide,|| St. Germanus, who is said, in 429, to 
have allayed a storm at sea by pouring a few drops of oil. 
on it, and St. Rosalia, who was a Sicilian saint, were vener- 

* Jones. — Credulities, p. 56. 

+ Mrs. Clement. — Legends of the Madonna and Saints. 

i Dunn.— Legends of Saxon Saints. 

S Jones.— Credulities, p. 72. 

I Grant.— Mysteries of all Nations, p. 1S5. 


ated by mariners, and some of them had numerous chapels 
dedicated to them. 

* St. Columba was a favorite marine saint with North- 
ern nations. His image, stolen in 1355, caused a storm, and 
it was in his chapel in the Hebrides that a moist stone was 
kept, to raise a gale. 

St. Cesarea was exposed to drown in a cave on the Italian 
coast. Mariners still say a light is seen there at times, sup- 
posed to be her luminous body. 

f St. Patrick is said to have had great power over the sea. 
He cast a stone altar, consecrated by the pope, into the sea, 
seated thereon a leper who had been refused passage in a 
ship, and made the chair sail in company with the ship. He 
also caused a ship carrying his nephew, St. Lumanus, to sail 
against the wind. 

Legends of Sainte Adresse, in Normandy, relate that 
sailors in danger, after an invocation of the Virgin had 
failed, succeeded when they invoked the saint's aid. 

St. Thomas of Canterbury, St. Edmund, and St. Nich- 
olas were united in saving one of the fleet of Richard, in 
1 1 90. 

Sailors generally, in the Mediterranean, venerate the 
saints of their own town or district, and pay their vows at 
their shrine. ' 

J Cetti says Italian fishermen chose by lot a saint for each 
day. and fish were dedicated to him, — an impartial method, 
to say the least. 

§ Klemm says Neapolitan fishermen, if their saints did 
not respond to their appeals, threw their images over- 

A giant statue of St. Christopher stood on a promontor}'' 
in Granada, so that sailors, seeing it from afar, would make 
their vows to it. He was a ferrj'^man who rowed Christ 
across a river. So there stood a colossal statue of this saint 
at Monte Pellegrino, in Sicily. 

St. Francis Xavier was long esteemed a powerful mari- 
time saint, and St. Phocas was a patron of Greek sailors, 
St. Elias of Slavonic mariners. 

II Flemish fishermen caught a whale that was too large 
for the small bay into which tliey towed it. They final!) 

♦ Jones. — Credulities, p. 37. 
+ Jones. — Credulities, p. 42. 
$ Jones. — Credulities, p. 3*5. 
g Kulturgeschichte. 

fi Translations and Miracles of St. Vaast. 


appealed to St. Arnould for help,. and, by his assistance, 
landed the monster. 

*Quallee Walee Sahib, a great Mahometan saint, was in- 
voked by a captain to stop a leak in his ship. The saint was 
under the barber's hands, but sent the mirror which he was 
holding. It flew to the ship, and stopped the leak by stick- 
ing to the ship's side. When the captain came to thank the 
saint, he bade him bring the glass, and showed the aston- 
ished man where it had adhered to the ship's side. 

fA favorite maritime saint in Japan is Jakushi Niurai, 
whose emblem was the cuttlefish, often seen cut on his stat- 
ues in seaside temples. In a great storm at sea, a huge fish 
attacked a junk, and mast and rudder were broken. A 
priest on board prayed to the saint, who appeared and bade 
him throw overboard his image, which the priest possessed. 
He did so, and the storm ceased. The image was afterwards 
restored to the priest by a cuttlefish. 

Saints not only sailed the seas in curious crafts, but many 
walked on its surface. So St. Peter of Alcantara, St. Hya- 
cinth, St. Marinus, St. Columba, St. Blaise, St. Peter Telme 
and St. Francis de Paul are asserted to have quietly walked 
the waters. As St. Scothinus J walked on the Irish sea he met 
St. Barras, his brother, sailing in a boat. To an inquiry of the 
latter, he answered that he walked in a beautiful meadow, 
and to prove it, stooped, and gathered a handful of flowers. 
Not to be outdone, the other saint immediately scooped 
up a handful of fish, to prove that they traversed the sea. 

The captain of a Venetian ship said to Loyola: " Why do 
you sail with me? A saint has no need of such vulgar 
means. He walks the waters and imitates Christ." 

The good offices of the Virgin and saints were necessary 
to overcome the evil machinations of the devil and Jiis 
subject demons, who were thought to dwell in ocean, lake, 
-sea, and river. 

"Spirits, that have over water gouvernement. 
Are to mankind malevolent; 
They trouble seas, floods, brooks, and wels, 
Meres, lakes, and love to inhabit wat'ry cells; 
Hence noisome and pestiferous vapours raise. 
Besides they men encounter divers ways. 
At wrecke's some present are; another sort 
Ready to cramp their joints that swim for sport." 

* Jones. — Credulities, p. 42. 

+ Mitford.— Tales of Old Japan. 

t Jones.— Credulities, p. 56. 


Among the sun-worshiping nations of antiquity, it was 
thought that his splendor was obscured at night by the 
machinations of evil demons, who opposed his passage in 
the waters of the lower world. This demon in Egyptian 
representations* is Typhon, or Apophis, the "lord of the 
deep," etc. Thence grew up a host of legends concerning 
a demon who had his abode in the sea, unclean to these 
people, and Typhonic influence was thought to cause the 
storms and tempests of the deep. Typhoeus in Greek 
legends was a dragon-monster, who warred against Jupiter, 
and was imprisoned under Mount JEtniu The name indi- 
cated the whirlwind in Greece and Rome. "Ty-foon" in 
China still designates the revolving sea-storm; "to-fan" 
the hurricane in Hindoostan, and " tuphon " the whirlwind in 

" Typhceus was father of the winds that bring ruin and 
havoc," says Hesiod; and he was also parent of the Hydra, 
Cerberus, Nemaean Lion, and other monsters fabled to have 
come out of the deep. Captain St. John saj-s the Chinese 
consider Tyfoon " the mother of winds." The name is 
perpetuated in the appellation for a circular storm, current 
in nautical language. 

Satan, in early ages, figured as Leviathan, and in an old 
gem is so shown, with the church, in the guise of the ship 
of St. Peter, triumphant over it. 

f In Hindoo legend, Panchayana is a demon living in the 
sea in the shape of a conch-shell, and the Maruts were verit- 
able storm-fiends. 

Argunas saved his brother from a marine demon. 

Jin an old Persian manuscript, the devil appears in the 
guise of a fish, and an old middle-age Inferno picture 
figures him as a cat — the malevolent animal at sea. 

Bad was a Persian demon of winds and storms. In 
Arabian belief, %/itms or giants caused disaster at sea. In 
one story in the Arabian Nights, a Jinnee wrecks ships. 
I Bechard, according to the " Clavicle of Solomon," was a 

In an old Jewish legend, the devil is angered because 
God gave man dominion over the things of the sea, deem- 
ing that his region; but he was allowed to possess a certain 

* Wilkinson. — Ancient Egypt. 

+ Mali libra rata. 

JCoUin de Plancy.— I>i<'t. Infprnale. 

I lyane.— Arabian Ni^lif;. 

iCIollin de Plancy.— Diet. Inf. 


power over the winds and waves. This is much like Phito 
in the "Iliad," when Neptune was made lord of the seas, — 

* " Pluto, the infernal, heard alarmed. 

And, springing from his throne, cried out in fear. 
Lest Neptune, breaking through the solid earth. 
To mortals and immortals should lay bare 
His dark and drear abode of gods abhorred." 

When the devils were cast out and entered the swine, 
they entered the sea; Micah says, "Thou wilt cast all their 
sins into the sea." 

f Marcus, the Eremite, in recounting the six classes of 
demons, says the fourth class is the water-demons, drown- 
ing men, raising storms, etc. 

Alvinach was a middle-age demon of the western sea, 
causing shipwreck and disaster, and appearing in female 

X Wierus sa\*s a demon, Forneius, in the shape of a marine 
monster, existed in the middle ages, aud another, Ganygya, 
sought the souls of drowned persons. 

Luther thought the devil raised storms, and said he laid 
some twenty caused by him. St. Thomas Aquinas says 
the same. St. Nicholas saw him at sea, sword in hand. He 
figures as storm-raiser in numerous other saintly legends, 
and Dante and Tasso testify to his power. 

§ Du Cange says the devil is called Hydros in a Latin 
manuscript, and that Neptunus, under the name of Aquati- 
quur, became a personification of the devil. Remegius and 
St. Augustine say the devil was evolved from water. 

II Duchesne says; "In the year 1148, a frightful whirl- 
wind arose, overthrowing houses and rooting up trees, 
when it was asserted that fiends were seen fighting, in the 
shape of wild animals." William of Malmesbury says of 
fiends; " Sometimes they seize the sailor." 

Various legendary demons are encountered in northern 
lore. Grendel's** mother was an aquatic demon; and Beo- 
wulf slew another one. The wives of the northern Nep- 
tunes. Ran and Skade, were, as we saw in the last chapter, 
regarded as evil deities of the sea. 

• Pope.— niad. 

+ Jones. — Credulities, p. 73. 

X De Praestigiis Demonium. 

8 Dictionary, 

I Norman Chronicles. 

"Ludlow.— Popular Epics of the Middle Ages, Vol. I. 


In the story of Frithjof, Helgi, the northern Pluto, sends 
the storm-spuits, the witches Heyd and Ham, against the 
liero's ship. 

So Tegner, — 

*" Now two storm-fiends came 
Against EUide's side; 
One was ice-cold Ham, 
One was snowy Heyd." 

" Loose they set the tempests' pinions, 
Down-diving in ocean deep; 
Billow's from unseen dominions 
To the gods' abode they sweep." 

And these demons are thus more minutely described, — 

"A whale before Eilide gliding 

Like a loose island seeth he, 
And tw^o base ocean-demons riding 

Upon his back, the stormy sea. 
Heyd, in snow-garb, shining brightly 

In semblance of an icy bear. 
Ham, his loud wings flapping widely. 

Like a storm-bird, high in air," 

f Certain demons called Landvasttir were believed, in 
Denmark, to threaten ships from the shore, and a law of 
Ulfliote, in the thirteenth century, required that the figure- 
heads then carried at the prow must be taken off on 
approaching shore, so as not to frighten these malevolent 
spirits. In the Issefiord (a part of Cattegat Strait) a sea- 
demon formerl)' dwelt, who stopped each ship and de- 
manded a man from it. But it was found, by consulting 
the priests, that he could be exorcised, and this was done 
bj' procuring the head of Pope Lucius (beheaded at Rome) 
and showing it to the demon. 

Three winged fiends attacked the crew of one of 
Gorm'sJ ships, in his voyage to the Isle of the West, and 
were onl}' appeased by the sacrifice of three men. 

§ In the romantic legends of William of Orange, Des- 
rame's head is thrown into the sea, and demons so haunt 
the spot that sailors dare not approach it.|| There is an old 
legend that Satan got into the ark, and tried to sink it by 
cutting a hole. 

*B. Taj'lor.— Tesrncr's Frithjof Saga. 

tFoi-mHuiia Pag-a, ]05; Thorpe.— Northern Myth., II, U7; Grimm.— Teut. 
Mjlh., 877. 

1 Keary. — Outlines of Primitive Belief, 444. Saso Grammaticus, Hist- Danica, 420. 
§ Cox and Jones. — Komances of the Middle Ages. 
IJ Conway.— Demonolog^- and Devil-lore, I, 122. 


*It was asserted that a demon of the flood was wont to 
be seen, on the breaking up of the Rhone glaciers, sword in 
hand, riding on the swollen stream. Sometimes, in female 
shape, he came to make the river overflow the land. Du 
Cange says a demon lived in the Rhone, called Dracus. 

f Anton says a sailor on board the French brig Due de 
Grammont, at Zante, while blaspheming and calling on the 
devil, was borne off by Satan in the shape of a horrible 

To these accounts of maritime demons in the middle ages, 
we may add a story of a more tangible shape, beli,eved to 
be demoniacal in character. The Abbe de Choisy tells the 
tale: J "Great noise among the sailors; some one suddenly 
cried, 'There is the devil! we must.have him!' Soon all is 
in motion; everyone took arms; naught is seen but pikes, 
harpoons, and muskets. I ran myself to see the devil, and 
I saw a large fish, which resembled a ray, except it had two 
horns, as a bull. It made several bounds, always accom- 
panied by a white fish, which from time to time came to 
attack it, and then went under it. Between its two horns 
it carried a little gray fish, which one calls the pilot of the ' 
devil, because it conducts it, and it sticks it when it sees 
fish, and then the devil goes like an arrow." 

We may find legends of maritime demons among modern 
sailors. § In Icelandic belief, if an oarsman leaves a little 
of the handle of the oar uncovered, the devil will use it. 

The devil, according to a story from Schleswig-Holstein,|| 
still ferries people across Cuxhaven bay. He does this to 
liberate himself from the consequences of a certain compact. 
He had procured a ship for a certain captain, the latter to 
yield himself up with the ship, which was to be kept busy 
so long as there was a cargo. This Satan tried to find, so 
as to keep the vessel cruising until the compact expired, but 
he was outwitted at the end of the first cruise by the 
captain's son, who crowded sail on and let the anchor go. 
The fiend tried to hold the anchor, but went overboard 
with it. 

A Dutch captain, proverbially lucky, was thought to 
have sold himself to the devil, who one day appeared, in a 
coach-and-four, and carried away his victim. 

•ronwaj'. — DemonologT and De\'il-lore, 1-117. 

4 Life of Louis Xlir. 

i Itelation of an Embassy to India.— Collin de Planoy. 

g Folk-lore Record, 1879. 

■■ Schmidt.— Seeman's Sageu. 


*In a German story, a demon pilot boards a doomed 
ship, whose crew have given themselves up to a desperate 
carouse. He conducts them through a cleft in the rocks 
into the mouth of hell, himself escaping in a phantom boat. 

Demons haunt many lakes in Bohemia, Austria, Hun- 
gary, and the Tyrol.f One, in the guise of a frog, decoyed 
a maiden to his palace below the water, where she found 
jars filled with the souls of drowned persons. She was 
able to liberate them. Water-demons are, in Bohemia, 
believed to float on the waves in the shape of a red flower. 
They walk on earth nine times a year, clad in a green coat, 
and claim a victim each time. 

Balarnu J is a Wallachian water-demon, living in marshes 
and water-falls. The devil, in a folk-tale, changes himself 
into a fish, to pursue a young man. 

In a Russian tale, the devil's imp drags down men boat- 
ing,§ and in Lake Kerikoff is fabled to live a demon, who 
upsets boats and seizes victims. 

A sort of mai me demon appears in several |{ Breton tales, 
related by old sailors. In one he is distrusted and set 
ashore from his ship, returns in a pirate, and captures his 
late captain. In another, as a common sailor, he performs 
prodigies of valor, and enriches his captain. 

In another, the devil enlists as a common sailor, is dis- 
covered and tormented by the crew, and finally disappears. 
Red Beard is a demon who stirs up storms at St. Pol de 

**Jochmus, a dwarf goblin, is seen by Guernsey mariners 
on Ortach Rock, and such a vision portends drowning. He 
is a sea-green monster, with finny feet and claws for hands. 
He knows the names of the drowned, and the spots where 
they lie. 

Kiihlebom is a demon of the waves, in Fouque's Undine. 
In an old woodcut in Lacroix,f| the devil with horns and 
hoofs holds the stern of a merchant ship that is just start- 
ing from the shore. 

Satan is said to have raised a storm at Bongay in Eng- 
land, in 1597, coming out of the waves in the shape of a 

♦ Schmidt.— Seeman's Sapen und Schiffer Mlihrchen. 

t Grohman. Aberijlauben aus Buhmen. 

J^cliott. — Wa!liu;hisclie Miirchen. 

SCoUin de Plancj'.— Diet. Internale. 

ISebiilot. — rentes des Mariiis. 

** Victor Hiipo.— Trav. rie la Jler. 

ft- Military and Religfious Life in Middle A^es. 


English children in Lancashire* were formerly told that 

if they went near the water, Jenny Greenteeth would get 

them. The water demon is also "Greenteeth" in Bohemia. 

Satan at sea is encountered in many early ballads. In 


"The ship roU'd in the heavy deep. 
The wind no longer blew, 
And over them, greedy to sink them all 
The fierce wild raven flew." 

For satan had assumed this garb. 

f In Scotch legend, the devil and his demons infest deep 
pools and streams, and it is dangerous to bathe there. A 
diver going down to get some plate, water-demons told him 
to go up and not come back. He went down a second 
time, and never re-appeared. 

The witches alleged that they were aided by the devil, as 
recorded in another chapter. 

In an old Scotch legend, the devil appears in seaman's 
dress. Norwegian sailors still fear an evil spirit, Draug, 
and say his spittle is the froth of the sea. 

J Davis tells a sailor legend of a Captain Folgerus, a 
daring seaman, whose luck was proverbial. In a gale off 
Cape Horn, he bargains with the devil to assist him. Satan 
holds on to his masts until a clear spot is seen in the sky, 
when he begs the captain to release him from his bargain. 
This being done, he lets go, and the masts are lost. " The 
De'ill himself can't hold to a bargain if he has a Cape Horn 
gale against him." 

A story is told by Thatcher,§ originally from German 
sources. In this, a certain sailor binds himself to serve 
Satan after fifty years, on condition of certain services. 
When his Satanic Majesty comes to claim his own, the 
shrewd mariner gets rid of him by engaging him to pump 
the sea dry, and by so placing the pump that the water all 
ran back. 

Sailors in the sixteenth century || firmly believed in the 
appearance of Satan at sea, in the Western part of the 
Atlantic. Denis says a demon was fabled to rise from the 
waters in the neighborhood of St. Brandan's Isle. Sailors 
testify their regard for Satan's power by the frequenc}- 

* Henderson.— Folk-lore of the North Counties. 265. 
+ Gregor.— Folk-lore of Scotland. 

tTlie American Nimrod. 
§ Superstitions (1821). 

• Goodrich. — Man Upon the Sea. See Frontlspieoe. 


with which his name is used in naming geographical locali- 
ties, as well as familiar objects on shipboard. Hell Gate 
on our own coast, and the Devil's Current in the Bosphorus, 
are examples of the first kind. 

" Busy as the Devil in a gale of wind " is a well-known 
adage. The devil-fish is the Lophis, or fishing-frog, as also 
the Rana, or cuttle. "Devil's smiles" are the deceptive 
gleams of fair weather, or the scowl on an angry captain's 
lace. The " Devil's table-cloth," reminiscence of the Cape- 
spectre, is still seen spread in threatening weather. Devil- 
bolt, Devil's-claw, and other names are met with, and the 
difficult seam at the margin of the deck is a devil, giving 
rise to the adage, " The Devil's to pay and no pitch hot," 
among calkers. 

The Devil as a water-fiend is also encountered among 
uncivilized people. 

Rock demons appear in numerous legends of the African 
tribes, as well as in the beliefs of the Indians of our 
Northern lakes and rivers. In *Australia, demons are said 
to haunt pools, and afflict bathers at times. 

They particularly desire females. The native doctors 
are believed to control them. Nguk-wonga is a demon who 
causes erj'sipelas . in the limbs of boy-bathers, and a stone 
amulet is carried, to counteract his evil influence. 

\ In V^an Diemen's Land, Burryup is a water-demon that 
is said to carry away native women to his palace. 

NauganaugaJ is a Fijian water-demon, who dashes into 
pieces celibates who try to steal around the rocks at low 
tide. Another marine-demon, Adrum-bu-Sambo, steals fish 
from nets. In Polynesian belief, a still-born child, when 
thrown into the sea, becomes an evil spirit. 

Phillippine Islanders believe in a water-demon, Nonos, 
who raises storms and wrecks boats. A vampire water- 
demon js encountered in Malacca. Muibura has a dog's 
head and alligator's body. 

A Japanese water-demon is § Kappa, who swallows bo5's 
who go down to swim without leave. 

Chinese believe in the devil's influence in causing storms. 
A sudden squall is called by Chinese sailors Tin-Foo-Foong, 
JDevil's head-ti'ind. 

• Eyre.— Australia, Vol. VI, p. 343. 

+Taylor.— New Zealand, p. 48. 

iTylor. — Primitive Culture. 

t Conway. — Deinon«logy and DeTil-Iore, I, IIS. 


Numerous water-devils are found in Ceylon. Cinghalese 
" Devil-plays," constantly allude to them. " Oh thou black 
devil, thou livest constantly in streams and drains. Come, 
thou black devil, out of the lake." Offerings are also made 
to a black female devil, said to linger among the rocks at 
the bottom of the sea. *Pniik is a Siamese water-demon. 

Nyang is a Madagascar demon, who is prayed to keep the 
sea from upsetting the boats. Abue is a Dahomey " King 
of the Sea." 

Dacotah Indians thought demons lurked beneath the 

■j- We find these lines in " Hiawatha," — 

"Give our bodies to be eaten 

By the wicked Nee-ban-aw-baigs, 
By the spirits of the water." 

And when the Indian hero sailed across the lake, — 

t ".But beneath, the •;vil spirits 

Lay in ambush, waiting for him. " 

Algonquins and Winnebagoes believed in the existence of 
water-demons in lakes and rivers. 

§ Greenlanders think water-demons exist, and say the 
oldest man must drink first so as to avoid them. Gigantic 
demons, in the shape of gulls, seals, bears, etc., are found 
among their beliefs. ||The Atalit are certain evil spirits, 
that have their homes beneath the waves, and drag people 
down. The Tornit are certain other demons, seen at sea in 
bad weather, gliding over the surface of the water, without 
a boat. 

** Carib legends say souls of the wicked go to the sea 
shore and capsize boats. Curumon is a Carib water-demon. 
f f Shoshones believe in water-demons (pahonahs). 

Brazilian Indians believe a water-fiend catches children 
who are sent to draw water. 

Xt Ovalle sa3's there are bad angels who infest the sen^ 
and wreck boats. Mosquito §§Indians said Wihwin a demoii 
in the shape of a horse, came out of the sea to devour men. 

'Bastian.— CEstlich Asien, p. 24. 

+ Lonff fellow.-^Hiawatha, 

t Longlellow.— Hiawatha. 

S Tyler.— Priniiti\-e Culture, I, 216. 

I Rink.— Tales and Traditions of the Esquimaux p. 46. 

**De la Borde.— Oribs, .532. 

++ Bancroft.— Native Kaces, Vol. Ill, p. 157. 

ft History of Peru. 

§8 Bancroft.— Native Races, p. 497. 


The name Devil suffered some strange transformations 
in the seaman's mouth. It was an adaptation from Div, 
Divus, Jove, Deva, etc. The God of antiquity, became in the 
course of time deva, a Satan, and afterward Devil, the Satan. 
It finally became, in sailor phrase, Davy. *Dj'ved is a fabulous 
Welshman of Taffy, the thief of evil spirit, and Duffy is a West 
India spirit. So " Davy Jones' locker " is became the ocean, 
the deep, the sea-bottom, the place to which the body was 
committed, and to which the souls of the wicked fled. Jones 
is for Jonah, whose locker was the whale's belly, and who, 
in view of his sacrifice to the storm-fiend, is the embodiment 
of malevolence at sea. "He is a Jonah," marks the un- 
lucky wight for figurative sacrifice, and ''gone to Davy 
Jones's locker," is synonymous with lost at sea. Smollett 
says in his day Davy Jones was " the fiend who presides 
over all the evil spirits of the deep, and is seen in various 
shapes, warning the devoted wretches of death and woe." 

f Collin de Plancy says he sometimes appeared, a giant 
breathing flames from his wide nostrils, and having big eyes 
and three rows of teeth. 

Another name for the maritime devil, perhaps more 
widely known than the last, was that of Nick, or Old Nick. 
The name, in the north of England, is used to denote Satan, 
especially among seafaring people. He is so named in a 
Devonshire proverb of a remote date. We mayj safely trace 
the name for this evil spirit of the waters through the Anglo- 
Saxon Nicor, Danish Nokke, Old Norwegian Nikr, Swedish 
Neck, Icelandic N5'ck, German Necker, Nocca, Belgo-Gallic 
Neccer, Old Norse Nikar, Old High German Nickus, to the 
Norse Hnickar, the seizer, the robber, one of the twelve 
names given to Odin, Norse god of all, who was the Jupiter 
Pluvius, or rain-god, of the North, and whose offspring are 
the Nixies, Northern naiads of the deep sea. 

Various other etymologies of the name occur, but need 
not detain us. Various origins of the name are also pro- 
posed. Lenormant suggests, with great reason, that Nix and 
Nick are from the same root as Naiad, Nymph, Neptune, 
etc., the Greek word Naein, to flow, being the primitive 
origin of them all. Hampson§ would trace the words farther 
back to the Anak or A7iactes, or Castor and Pollux, whom v. e 

♦Gerald Massey.— Book of the Beginnings, 
t Dictiounaire Infernale. 
tttrimm.— 'Teut. Myth. Vol. II, p. s<,' 
' Afeilii -Evl Kaleodarium. 


have encountered as maritime deities. But this is a doubtful 

* Morley says Odin under the name of Nikarr, gets his 
title from a word signifying violence, as it appears in the 
Greek Nik/, victory, and in the Latin necare, to kill. So 
" Nuecen, to kill, English, knock, having been cut up to 
Nicken, has become the Old Nick of more recent times." 

f A recent writer carries the name Nickar back to the 
Egyptian Nika, or Naker, — a name of the Apophis serpent 
of the lower world, the Typhonic enemy of the sun in his 
night journey. In Goa, Africa, Neck is a devil. . 

J Grimm says the Life of St. Matthew, written in 
German in the thirteenth century, translates Necken — 
Neptune. ~ Lenormant's derivation of the word is perhaps 
the nearest to the truth. But as to Odin's connection with 
the name. " He only appears as Nikar once," says Grimm, 
in the Snorra or Younger Edda, 3. He there visits Sigurd's 
ship at sea as Hnickar. § Norse legends say he often 
appears in this guise, in the shape of a sea-monster (Ger- 
man Nikhus is crocodile), presaging shipwreck and drown- 
ing to seamen. Scott, in "Demonology," says, "Nixas, or 
Nicksa, a river or ocean-god, worshiped on the shores of 
the Baltic, seems to have taken uncontested possession of 
the attributes of Neptune. The Nixa of the Germans is 
one of those facinating and* lovely fays whom the ancients 
termed Naiads. The Old Nick known in England is an 
equally known descendant of the Northern sea-god, and 
possessed a large portion of his powers and terrors. 
British sailors fear him, and believe him the author of 
various calamities of their precarious life." 

Odin was called as Fisherman's deity Hvael, or whale, 
and as the whale and walrus were caught with great danger, 
so Odin, as maritime spirit, became diabolic. 

II The Danish Nokke is seen and heard often on the 
coasts. He is represented as an old monster, or as a young 
or old man. A knife is carried, or a nail, in a boat when 
going to sea, as he fears steel. ■ In the song, " The Power 
of the Harp,"— 

"The foul, ugly Nick sat and laughed on the wave." 

♦English Writers. 

+ Massey.— Book of the Beginnings. 

tTeut. Myth., 11,497. 

8 Thorpe.— Northern Jfythology, 11, 20. 

I Thorpe. — Northern Mythology, Vol. II. 


Olaus Wormsius saj'S he was said often to appear to 
sailors on the deep sea, presaging immediate storms and 
disaster. Me says the redness of drowned people is owing 
to this demon's having sucked their blood through the 

*In Norway the Nokke are said to abound in rivers, 
firths and lakes, and require an annual human sacrifice. 
One was commonly reported to rise in a certain river when 
any one was drowned, and cry "Saet over!" (cross over!) 
They are said to be able to transform themselves into 
various shapes, sometimes appearing with half the body 
like that of a fish, or of a horse, or a boat. If any one 
touches them he is in the Evil One's power. Particularly 
were thej- greedy after children, catching them and drag- 
ging them beneath the water, but they were only dangerous 
after sunset, f On appearing, it was deemed best to say, 
'•Nyck! Nyck! needle in water! The Virgin Mary cast 
steel into the water! Thou sink! I float!" for the appear- 
ance of steel in the water was thought to control them. 
They also were called Soetrold (sea-trolls). When they 
appear at sea they are considered very powerful, and if one 
in danger of shipwreck would promise a son or daughter, 
he would escape the calamity. Frequently the Nok 
changed his form or abode. 

J He may be bridled when Tie comes as a horse, and he 
is known b}' his hoofs being turned backward. 

At one place in Norway he is fabled to appear as the 
water-horse when stormy or threatening weather is impend- 
ing. At another place he is called the Vigtrold (harbor- 
troll), who shouts to warn mariners when danger is jiear. 
A Nok in Svend waterfall is fabled to have caused the 
death of many persons. A priest tried twice to cross the 
river, but onl)' succeeded the third time, by catching the 
spirit, in tlie shape of a dog, and drowning it. 

§ In Swedish, Neckan is the musical sprite of the water. 
Rudhechius says Neckar assumed various shapes and gov- 
erned the sea. In Sweden, when you bathe, you should 
carry a piece of steel or iron into the water, for they sav 
that sometirrfes Nick appears as a young man on the sur- 
face of the sea, and he is said to be especialh* severe on 
voung m.aidens who have not treated their lovers well. 

*F!VVO.— Norsk Bagen. p. 57. 
+Tliori)e.— Xorthei-n Mythology, II, 20. 
t Grimm.— Teut. Slj-th. 
§ Thorpe.— Northern Jlvthology, II, 39. 


In all these countries he is thought to be very anxious 
about his soul. So his children, when told " You have no 
soul, and will never be saved," ran shrieking into the sea. 

* German legends of Nick and the nixies are abundant. 
In old works, Necca, Necco, Nickar, or Neckar, is governor 
of the sea, assuming the name and form of some animal, or 
of a man in a boat. Nixen, or Nickers, are water-fairies of 
the sea, streams and lakes. Males are called Nix, females 
Nixie. Some say their ears are slit, others say they have 
fish-like backs. Some are represented clothed, others cov- 
ered with moss and sea-weed. Nickelman or Hackelman, 
sits on the water with a long hook, to drag children down 

He often appears in the evening calling for help, and 
dragging down the person who comes to assist him. Stories 
of Nick are told, with variations, of nearly every lake, river 
and stream in Germany- Austria and Bohemia. Nick ap- 
pears as a serpent, in a story from the Black Forest, drag- 
ging a maiden down with him below the water. 

I A water-fiend in Bode required an animal sacrifice, so a 
black hen was thrown in as "a substitute for a mortal. When 
the water is disturbed, Nick frequently clasps his hands and 
laughs, for some will drown. The metal nickel is said to 
have been named after Old Nick, who stole silver and sub- 
stituted the baser metal. Neckar, or Nick, kills the maidens 
who disobey his orders, or who marry mortals. So with 
Undine, after her return to the Rhine depths, and a similar 
story is told by Grimm. Another Rhine story is told of a 
Nick carrying off a woman who was washing linen on the 
bank. He always devoured his children. The services of 
midwives were said to be frequently required in the Rhine 
depths.J The messenger of Nix is Nixcobb, who communi- 
cates with mortals. He is a short, deformed dwarf, covered 
with shells, sea-weed and moss. In a German story, " Nix 
of the Mill-Pond,'' a man is carried away by the Nix. An 
old witch bids his wife comb her hair by the pond. Her 
husband's head appeared. The next day she played a flute 
when half his body arose from the water. The third da}"^ 
she turned a golden spinning-wheel, when he reappeared 
and emerged from the lake. This tale is believed by Cox 
to symbolize the sun breaking up the winter-sleep of nature. 

*Wiittke. — Deutsche Aber^lauhen. 

+ Wolf .—Deutsche MHhrchen und Sagen. 

* Legends of the lihine. 


Stones thrown in the Nick-haunted lakes raise a storm. 

At Blankenburg, a ship ran ashore, and the crew could 
not get her afloat, until a Nix came and assisted, with a long 

In Hesse, children are told to keep away from the water, 
or " Nocken will get you." 

* A nick is said to have carried a fisherman's boat from a 
lake on Riigen to the top of a tall tree. Another was said 
to have been seen near Marburg, in 1615, and they were 
frequently seen, according to old chronicles, in the Elbe 
near Magdeburg, where they were fabled to have prevented 
the construction of an acqueduct. At Leipsig, they were 
fabled to require- a victim each year, and were thought 
especiall)- to desire children. 

An old legend of 1664, told by Pratorius, says a maiden 
served a Nix for three j'ears. Sailors and fishermen at 
Neumark say that the Nix requires a sacrifice every three 
years. One in the Rhine requires a midwife's services, and 
repays her with a lot of ashes, which turn to gold. 

f In Austria, Donaufiirst asks all who came to the river 
what they wish most, and then ducks them in the river, 
where is all, and everything. 

The rivers, springs, and lakes in Belgium and Holland 
are haunted by the Necken. Near Ghent, it is said that he 
has been seen on the banks of the Scheldt. In Brabant, it 
is thought that he cries like a child to attract people, and 
that he sucks the breath and blood of drowning persons. A 
story is told of nixies dancing on the strand, and a jroung 
man got possession of the glove of one of them, and she 
plunged into the water, but it was soon stained red, for Nick 
had slain her for conversing with a mortal. 

I The " Water-king of Wangerong " came to Dort to claim 
a bride. Not being able to get her, he buried in sand a 
part of the coast. 

In the Faroe Islands, Nikar drags people down occasion- 

Scotch seamen formerly believed in " Nigg of the Sea." 
Storms gathered while he slept. The Celtic water-god 
Neithe is conjectured a Nick. 

Nyck. in Iceland, is a water-kelpie who carries off a 
maiden who foolishly mounts on his back. 

* Kuhn and Schwartz. — Deutsche Sagen. 
+ Simrock — Deutsche Mythologie, p. 130. 

4: Schmidts — Seaman's Sagen und Schitfer MS,hrchen. 


* Nock is said by some to have fish extremities. The 
nixies, his children and subjects, are sometimes naked, hung 
about with shells and sea-weed, anfl when clothed, betray 
their presence by dripping garments. They love to dance 
in the moonlight, and, like mermaids, foretell the future, 
and are possessed of protean wisdom. 

The Anglo-Saxon knew him. f Turner says: " Neccus, a 
malign deity, who frequented the waters, was feared in the 
North. If any perished in whirlpools, or by cramp, or by 
bad swimming, he-was thought to be seized by Neccus. 
Steel was supposed to expel him, and therefore all who 
bathed threw some little pieces of steel in the water for 
that purpose." Beowulf says the Nicor were supernatual 
elves in lakes, rivers and seas, ever ready to injure, and able 
to raise storms. He says they were fiendish and savage 
enemies of the sailor. 

" Brother Fabian's Manuscript," quoted by Hardwick,J 
says, — 

" Where by the marishes bloometh the bittern, 
Neckar the soulless one sits with his ghittern. 
Sits inconsolable, friendless and foeless. 
Waiting his destiny, — Neckar the soulless." 

And SO in Matthew Arnold's poem, — 

" In summer on the headlands, 
The Baltic sea along, 
Sits Neckar, with his harp of gold, 
And sings his plaintive song." 

Thus we have seen the devil borrowed by the sailor from 
his terrestrial abode, and made to do duty in ocean depths. 
During the middle ages, a belief in Satan's power was uni- 
versal, and this was fostered by the priests; he, sometimes, 
as in the case of Nick, being a degraded heathen god. 
"Amphibia," says a German writer, " appear as bad and 
demonical animals," and thus the water-king is malevolent. 
But Satan, as prince of the air and sea, had, in popular lore, 
a bad character. The mediaeval conception of the maritime 
devil, transmitted to more modern times, is thus aptly 
summed up by Fiske; "Like those other wind-gods, the 
psycopomp Hermes, and the wild huntsman, Odin, he is 
prince of the powers of the air. . . . Finally he takes a 

•Thorpe.— X. Mythology, Bk. Ill, p. 87. 
+ Anglo.SaAOn History. 
t lancashire Traditions. 


hint from Poseidon, and from the Seven Maidens, and ap- 
pears as a water-nymph or nixy, and as the Davy (Deva) 
whose 'locker' is situated at the bottom of the sea." There 
he now remains, no longer terrifying the practical modern 

As the bearded god, Odin becomes the giver of the 
rain, the Zeus Ombrios of the Greeks, the Indra Parjanya 
of the Hindoos, the Jupiter Pluvius of the old Latins. 
As such he is Knickar, the old English Nicor, or water- 
god, whose offspring are the Nixes or water sprites. All 
these names, like those of the Naiads and Nereids, come 
from the same root with the Sanscrit Sna, the Greek 
necho, the Latin nave, to float or swim. Old Nick, it is 
scarcely necessary to say, is merely an abbreviated form of 
Nicor. Another name, denoting a water-god, from the 
same root, which has given us the names of many streams, 
Taff, Tavy, Taw, Tay, Tagus, etc., is seen in the phrase 
" Davy Jones locker."* 

In folk-lore, the figure of Odin Nikor, or Woden- 
Nichus has been diffused into a host of water sprites, male, 
and female, whose names — Necks and Nixes, that is 
Nickses;orNeckers, Nickers, N6ckens,7W(:y^^/j, and Nockels 
— all point to the same root, from which the names of 
Nikar, as well as that of the mystic water horse, Nuggle, 
is derived. In English demonology, when the Christian 
creed came in, the once powerful Nicker was pushed into 
the dark background as " Old Nick." In the legendary 
lore of the Roman church, he was replaced by St. 
Nicholas, t 

♦Grimm. Tentonic Mythology. 

tK. Blind. Scottish, Shetlandic and Icelandio Water-Gods. 



" I think I'd like to be a witch. 
I'd churn the sea, I'd tether the winds, 
As" suited my fancy best. 
I'd wreck great ships, if they crossed my path, 
With all the souls on board." 

Old Cornish Song. 

"Oh! sing and wake the dawning! 
Oh! whistle for the wind! 
The night is long, the current strong, 
Thy boat it lags behind!" 

Kingslty — A Myth. 


HE Deities, Demons and Saints 
were not the only powers capa- 
ble of controlling the elements. 
Although they were believed to 
exercise chief dominion over 
winds and storms, it was also 
believed that many human agents 
possessed the power of controlling 
winds and waves, generally through 
an invocation or conjuration of these 
superior spirits. 

This belief in the storm-raising 
power of certain persons existed early 
in the history of m'an. Homeric Tel- 
chians were a tribe of dwarfish wind- 
makers, allied to the four dwarfs, Northri, Austri, 
** Vestri and Suthri, placed by the Sagas at the four 
corners of the world. *According to the Edda, Giants and 
Giantesses caused storms. 

The phrase still in use, "a capful of wind," reminds us of 
Eric VI., of Norway, "Windy-Cap," as he was called, just 
as the sailor phrase, fa " bagful," in a heavier blow, carries 
us back to .iEolus and his windbags. Eric, who lived 907 

* Grimm.— Teut. Myth. II, 637. 
+ Jones.— Credulltlea, p. 68. 



A.D., was believed to be able to control the winds, turning 
his cap in the direction sought. 

* Grimm tells a German tradition of a man who could 
conjure the wind by shifting his cap from one side to the 

fOlaus says of Eric: "Eric was in his time held-second 
to none in the magical art, and he was so familiar with the 
evil spirits whom he worshiped, that what way so ever he 
turned his cap, the wind would presently blow that way. 
For this, he was called " Windy-Cap." 

In the " Khorda Avesta," Vahista conjures the North 
wind, as an evil spirit. 

Seneca says there were in antiquity those who, by their 
incantations, raised storms. Tibullus tells of a magician 
who could control the elements, and the same is affirmed by 
the Codex Theodosius. 

J Plutarch, speaking of a visit of Demetrius, a gramma- 
rian, to Great Britian, says; "Very soon after his arrival, 
there was great turbulence in the air, and many portentous 
storms; the winds became tempestuous, and fiery whirlwinds 
rushed forth. When they ceased, the islanders said the 
departure of some one of the superior genii had taken 

§ It was likewise alleged that a storm arose in the fifth 
century, when Diagoras went to sea, in consequence of his 
atheistical opinions. 

In the middle ages, a belief in these weather-makers 
became nearly universal. A ninth century writer, || Agobard, 
tells us: "In these districts, almost all persons, noble and 
plebeian, townsmen and rustics, believe that hail and thunder 
may be produced at the will of man, that is, by the incanta- 
tions of certain men who are called tempestarii." " It was 
generally believed that these sent hail stones from their 
ships in the upper air, to pelt off the fruit." He says, that 
when people were asked, what they meant by "the storm 
being raised," some, with little hesitation, as is usual with 
the ignorant, declare that it is from the incantations of these 
persons, called tempestarii, and utter execrations against 

In Germany, about looo, A.D., certain " Defensores " were 

• Grimm.— Teut. Myth. IT, 71. 

+ Glaus Magnus.— History Goths, 1658, III, 13, 

$ Morals. — Goodwin's Trans. 

6 Jones. — Credulities, p. 45. 

1 De Tonltru et Grandini— In Works. 


credited with these weather-raising powers. * In a middle- 
age confessional, a question as to belief in weather-makers 
was inserted, and penances imposed for such beliefs. Laws 
were also passed against such persons, f Mallet says there 
are such laws in the statutes of Charlemagne, and in ancient 
statutes of Norway. Later, French and Italian laws de- 
clared it a penal offense to become a weather-maker. The 
pope joined in the crusade against such persons, and de- 
clared against them in two bulls, issued in 1317 and 1327. 

Marco Polo tells us many wonderful stories of weather- 
makers.J Mongol weather-makers in his time used a cer- 
tain stone called " Yadah," repeating certain incantations 
over a basin in which it was suspended. A Tartar chief, 
Nogodan, was said to have raised clouds, and enveloped in 
them an opposing army, thus defeating it. Of Cashmere 
sorcerers found in his day he says they "can by their sor- 
ceries bring on changes of weather and produce thunder.'' 
Modern travelers repe-^t similar traditions concerning them. 
§ Polo says of Sorcerers in the Isle of Socotra: " Thus, if a 
ship be sailing past with a fair wind and a strong, they will 
raise a contrary wind and compel her to turn back. . . 
In fact, they make the weather as they list, and produce 
great tempests and disasters." 

Later traditions aflSrmed these beliefs of certain persons. 

Remigius says a certain sorcerer caused a storm on a 
clear day, nearly killing a peasant. || Arnanson says sorcer- 
ers in Iceland used as a storm-bringing charm a ling's head. 
This has in its open mouth a cylinder of wood with a magic 
charm, called Vedur-gapi, engraved on it. When this was 
stuck up on a pole over a cliff, it would bring a wind. De 
Plancy says this power of controlling the winds was obtained 
by an amulet made of a fish's jaw, with ten magic charac- 
ters engraved on it, so arranged that initiated persons only 
could see the words " Thor hafot " between them. 

Thorgrim, Thorlefr and Thorgard, in the Icelandic Gisli 
Saga, raise storms. In the Finnish epic,** a sorcerer not 
only causes a storm, but also freezes the ocean. Among 
the evil things ascribed to rope-makers in France during 
the middle ages, storm-raising was included. 

» Dobeneck.— In Schieble, Das Kloster. 

+ Northern Antiquities. 

t Yule.— Marco Polo, Vol. II. 

§ Tule.— Marco Polo, Vol. II, p. 34L 

I Icelandic Legends. 

•*KaleTala.— Le Due's Translation. 


* Cassas says that hurricanes in the Gulf of Carnero were 
caused, according to common report, by sorcerers, who, 
when offended, kindled great fires in caverns, causing the 
enraged earth to send forth their storms. 

\ In an unpublished Harleian MSS. it is asserted that Sir 
Roger Wall3'sborn allayed a storm at sea, by showing a frag- 
ment of the true cross. 

Toledo sorcerers were reported to have endowed a Sala- 
mancan professor with the power to raise storms. The 
Polish physician, Twardowski, was, in common opinion, able 
to raise storms. 

Pirates and smugglers were generally accredited with 
these storm-raising powers, and numerous folk-lore tales 
supply instances of this belief. 

J Sprengel says sorcerers used the Evangelists to appease 
the demons of the storm. Godelmann thus recapitulates 
the beliefs concerning them: " When God allows the Devil 
to send down hail, he directs the Sorcerer to cast small peb- 
bles behind him, while he scatters sand taken from the water 
in a ditch, into the air; makes a little hole, casting wine 
therein, or stirs about water with the fingers." 

§ Reginald Scot says: " These, I sa^^ take upon them- 
selves also the raising of tempests." 

Bras de Fer, a sorcerer condemned to the galleys, raised 
a breeze, to avoid being thrown overboard as a Jonah, by 
turning a stone with his toe.|| 

Sorcerers of the Isle of Orleans, in the St. Lawrence river, 
could raise storms. Jean Lavallee wrecked many vessels of 
Sir Hovenden Walker's fleet in 171 1, by raising a storm and 
pursued them at sea with fogs and storms. 

** In Cornwall, a certain Lord and Lady of Pengerswick 
were said to have called up storms when they would, and 
are believed to have been unpopular landlords, thus exe- 

Tregeagle was another Cornish storm-fiend. He is heard 
at many places on the coast wailing during the storm, at the 
failure of his efforts to accomplish certain difficult tasks, 
f f At Ipswich, Harry Main howls every time his rope of sand 

* JODea. — Credulities, p. 72. 
•tHazlitt. — Popular Antiquities. 
$ Malleus' Maleficarinm, 1490. 

§ Discovery of Witchcraft. 

BAbije LecainiLHist. de Satan, p. 35S. 

*» Bottrell.— Traditions of West Corawall. 

t+Draie. — Legends of New England. 


Mrs. Cookson repeats a Manx legend of a certain Mac- 
Lear, who controlled the winds, — 

" From New Year's tide round by the ides of yule. 
Nature submitted to his wizard rule. 
Her secret force he could with charms compel. 
To brew a storm, or raging tempests quell." 

* Baxter tells us of " an old reading parson named Lowis, 
not far from Framingham, that was hanged, who confessed 
that he had two imps, and that one of them was always 
putting him on doing mischief, and (being near the sea) as 
he saw a ship under sail, it moved him to send him to sink 
the ship, and he consented, and saw the ship sink before 

f There was a tradition among French sailors that cer- 
tain shipmates had the power to control the winds through 
the possession of a ring, worn on the little finger of the right 
hand. The possessor must, however, be careful to spend no 
more than three months on a single voyage, nor must he re- 
main on shore more than three days, or his life would be 

Indian and savage sorcerers and medicine-men are fan- 
cied to control the winds and clouds. A sorcerer at Fresh- 
water Bay J kept the winds in bags, like ./Eolus, and used 
certain incantations to control them. - A Cree sorcerer sold 
winds, giving three kinds for a pound of tobacco. 

Khoi-Khoi Hottentots pretend to control the winds and 
raise storms. New Zealanders say their priests cause winds 
to blow at will, and can also make canoes lighter, to sail 
more easily. " The crew were in great strait because they 
had no priest to charm their canoe, to make it sail bravely," 
says a recent traveler. 

§ Tylor says, " Raising the wind had its origin in all seri- 
ousness, describing one of the results of the sorcerers' art, 
practiced especially by Finn wizards, of whose uncanny 
power over the weather our sailors have not to this day for- 
gotten their old terror." 

And perhaps no one could, in the opinion of the seaman 
of a century ago, raise a wind so effectually as a Finn. 
I Olaus Magnus alludes to their trade in winds, and we shall 

* World of Spirits. 

+ Collin de Plancy. — Dictionnaire Infemale. 
t Brinton.— Mjiihs of the New World. 
§ Primitive Culture. 
I History of the Goths, 1658. 


speak of it in its place. This led sailors to consider them 
as unlucky. * Dana, in his charming book, says the black 
cook of his first ship long feared a certain seaman, thinking 
him a Finn. He said Finns were wizards, and he had known 
a Finnish sailmaker who could do what uncanny things 
he would. He had a rum-bottle always mysteriously half 
full, although never replenished, and often consulted. He 
talked to the bottle and finally cut his throat in an unsea- 
manlike way. The cook had heard of a ship in the Gulf of 
Finland which was beating against a head wind, when 
another hove in sight, passed her with a fine breeze aft and 
all sails set, proving to be a Finnish vessel. Dana doubted 
his tales, whereupon the oldest seaman in the ship was ap- 
pealed to. He remembered that a certain Finn was accused 
by the captain of a ship, with whom he had quarreled, of 
giving him a head wind, and even shut up in the fore-peak 
a day and a half, which summary proceeding brought the 
wind fair, f Only a very few years ago (1857) a sailor was 
tried in England for killing a mulatto at sea, on the " Ruby 
Castle." His defense was that he thought the man a Finn, 
and so put him out of the way of doing harm. 

J Schmidt has a story of a Finn mate who goes to a cer- 
tain stone on the seashore, and by incantations raises a 
storm, but declares that his life will be a forfeit for this 
power of controlling the elements. § Le Due says that Finn 
sorcerers still pretend to control the winds, and inclose 
them in bags. 

II Hereby it is not intended to deny but spirits can raise 
or bestow winds or tempests. It may be by arbitrary means, 
though I see some are willing to excuse Lapland from such 

**Finn wizards are celebrated in Shetland lore. They 
were certain mythical creatures, at times men, at others, 
when they had donned a seal-skin, they became seals. They 
wrought many magical spells at sea, chasing boats and rais- 
ing storms. In such cases, silver thrown overboard would 
save the boat. 

Blind ingeniously conjectures these mysterious creatures 
to have been old Norse sea-pirates, who, coming as a con- 

•Two Years Before the Mast, p. 46. 

+ Jones.— Credulities, p. 16. 

tSeeman's Sagen una Schiffer MShrchen. 


1 J. Goad.— Astro-Meteorologica, lfi86. 

*♦ Blind, in Contemporary Review, September, B83. 



quering race, were doubtless wonder-workers, in the eyes of 
the simple islanders. In an old charm for sprains, "A Finn 
came ow'r from Norway," and hence was wonder-working. 
The tales of their casting off their seal garb and coming 
ashore, alluded to the throwing aside the Norse armor 
(often made of seal skins), to join in the social dance on the 
rocky beach. As many Norse heroes are traditionally charm- 

The Crew accuse Holcroft of Being a Jonah. 

workers and weather-makers, these conjectures appear prob- 

* Holcroft tells us that sailors, in a voyage to Scotland, 
thought him a Jonah, because he was an actor. On Easter 
Sunday, as he was walking the quarter-deck, reading aloud, 
several approached him, and one asked him what he was 


108 lSgends And superstitions 

reading, advising him to read a prayer-book instead of a 
book of plays. "By the holy father, I know you are the 
Jonas, and, by Jasus, the ship will never see land till you 
are tossed overboard, you and your plays with them!" 

* Being becalmed at sea in a Spanish vessel, the sailors 
thought the heretic, Stevens, caused it. 

f Melville says the sailors in a packet-ship believed that 
incantations, muttered over the bible by a steerage pas- 
senger, raised head-winds, and they even threatened to 
throw her overboard. 

A Cornish tradition informs us that Sir Cloudesly 
Shovel's fleet was wrecked on the Scilly Islands, by a storm 
raised by a condemned criminal reading the CIX Psalm. 

J Thatcher tells this story: " In the ship President, bound 
out from Charleston, a sailor declared a storm was brought 
on by his wickedness, and finally jumped overboard from 
the fore-rigging. When the ship returned, a storm again 
aroE3, and the sailors declared that Sam's chest must go, 
too. A Scotchman got it, and when he threw it overboard, 
the storm ceased. When near New York, a squall came up, 
and the crew declared there still remained some of the 
dead man's effects. His shoe was finally found, and when 
it was flung overboard, the men were assured of their 

§A lawyer or a priest was also viewed askant when 
embarking on shipboard; "kittle cargo," they were called. 
Priests were unlucky, probably because of their black 
gowns and their principal office — that of consoling the 
dying and burying the dead; and lawyers, from a general 
antipathy of sailors to that craft — "sea-lawyer" being a 
term of reproach to an argumentative or Avordy sailor, and 
" 'and-shark," a synonymical appellation of the gowned men. 

Another reason urged against priests, was that the devil, 
the great storm-raiser, was their especial enemy, and sends 
tempests to destroy them. |( Brewer says Jonah's and St. 
Paul's voyages probably gave rise to these ideas of clerical 

The superstition is widespread. ** Japanese fishermen 
deem it an ill-omen to meet a bonze or priest on their way 

* Stephens.— Cent. America, IT, p. 464. 
+ Moby Dick. 

t Superstitions, 1827. 

8 Folk-lore Record.— Henderson, Gregor, etc. 

H Readers^ Hand-book. 

"Miss Bird.— Japan; 


to their boats. * Scotch fishermen do not allow you to say 
"minister" or "kirk" in their boats. The former is called 
"the man wi' the black quyte (coat)"; the latter "the bell- 
hoose." The presence of a minister in the boats is seen 
v/ith misgivings, as he may be a Jonah. 

Priests were thought able to control the elements in 
France in the middle ages. Martin de Aries says they 
threw stones in the air, to raise a storm. 

Arab religious men, or Marabouts, were supposed to be 
influential in raising storms. The voyages of Teonge, a 
chaplain in the English navy, on the Barbary coast, in 1679, 
attest this. He says: "It hath been very tempestuous all 
night and so continueth. Wee may suppose their Mara- 
botts are at work to drive us from their coast, but Good is 
above the Devill." f A letter in Galignani, of Paris, in May, 
1856, from Constantine, Africa, says that when these Mara- 
bouts did not raise a wind to the satisfaction of customers, 
they were ducked, to insure a breeze. 

I A caste of priests in Egypt are still thought to be able 
to control the wi^ds, and board Nile boats for that purpose. 
Villiers says: " He (our boat captain) said that this caste of 
Santons were subject to a king in the mountains of Cossara, 
and had such powers, that, if caught in a storm at sea, a 
calm was restored; and if a cannon-ball made a hole in the 
ship, a Santon could stop it." 

§ We are told in a Norse Saga: " Bishop Sigurd took all 
his robes, and went forward to the bow of the king's ship; 
ordered tapers to be lighted, and incense to be brought out. 
Then he set the crucifix upon the stern of the vessel, read 
the Evangelist and many prayers, besprinkled the whole 
ship with holy water, and then ordered the ship-tent to be 
stowed away, and to row into the fjord. Now, when all 
\vas ready on board the Crane to row, she went into the 
fjord without the rowers finding as\y wind; and the sea was 
curled about the keel-track like as in a calm, so quiet and 
still was the water; yet on each side of them the waves 
were lashing up so high that they had the sight of the 

I A conjuration still exists, employed by priests in the 
middle ages to allay storms, after using which the cross was 

* Gresror.— Folk-lore of Scotland. 

+ Jones.— Credulities, 71, note. 

i Villiers.— Egypt. 

% Olaf Trygg\-a8on'8 Saga. 

I Schieble.— Das Kloster. 


shown to the four points of the compass, and holy water 
sprinkled about. 

*According to Provencal legends, a monk embarked in a 
galley, when a great storm arose. The crew were about to 
sacrifice him, but he begged a respite, and allayed the 
storm, within the hour granted him. 

f So women were thought unlucky at sea, although JPliny 
says the ancients thought a storm at sea would subside on 
a woman's showing herself nuda corpore to the winds. 
Children, on the contrary, were usually lucky. 

The sea near St. Jean du Doight (Finisterre) enrages 
itself at sight of a woman.§ 

II Holcroft says, however, "Hearing a child cry in a 
woman's arms," a sailor exclaimed, " So, we have a squall, 
we shall soon have a breeze." 

But none of these wind-raisers were so universally known 
as the witches, once thought supreme over the winds. This 
was an early belief. **Pomponius Mela, writing 45 A.D., says 
there were in the island of Sena (Isle au Sein), on the coast 
of Gaul, certain Druidesses who controlled the winds: " It 
contained some of these venerable virgins, who pretended 
that they could raise storms and tempests by their incanta- 
tions." "They are called gallicense, supposed to be of great 
genius and rare endowments, capable of raising storms by 
their incantations, of transposing themselves into what ani- 
mals they please, and occasionally able to fortell what is to 

The " Pcenitentiale " of Theodore avers that the Anglo- 
Saxons believed witches could raise storms, and asserts that 
among the evil practices of communicants, were to be repre- 
hended those practiced by the emissores tempestorum. In the 
old tale,tf " The Lambton Worm," a " witch wife " is sent by 
a wicked queen to wreck the hero's ship, but has no power 
over the sacred " rowan-wood " of which it is built. 

Early legends exist of Scandinavian witches. Olaus 
Magnus tells us of their storm-raising powers. We also read 
in the old saga of Olof Tryggvason: " When he came north 
to Sullen fjord, he intended to sail in it to look for Rand, 
but a dreadful tempest and storm was raging in the fjord. 

* JaL— Glossaire Nautique. 

+ Grant.— Mysteries, 39S. 

t Natural History, Vol. XXVni, p. 23. 

§ M. G. Lescal in Melusine, 1884. 

II Memoirs. 

"GeoR. Lni, ch. VI. 

+t Ludlow.— Popular Epics of the Middle Ages, Vol. U. 


This was repeated by Rand's wizard arts, whenever Olof 
approached the fjord. 

*A witch in the Grettir Saga allays a storm. She says 
" How shall it be said that it is past hope that I may deal 
with the gale that has been veering about the while." Odde, 
a celebrated wizard, boiled seid to raise a storm (Seid is " a 
boiling," and is but the magic hell-broth of the witches). 

The Bernese chronicle avers that a woman raised a storm 
for a certain Count of Kyburg, to clear his enemy from his 
castle. Remigius says that more than two hundred witch 
weather-makers were burned; that " they beat the water so 
long with switches and rushes given them by the devil, that 
a thick mist and fog came up." These weather-making 
witches are said also to have rolled a cask about, until a 
storm was produced. 

Lapland witches were especially noted for their wind- 
raising powers. They, too, were said to cause storms by 
throwing sand in the air, with incantations and charms. 
Congreve, in "Love for Love" (1695), says, — 

"O'ons, I'll marry a Lapland witch as soon, and live upon selling 
contrary winds and wrecked vessels." 

English witches were still further celebrated. 

f Reginald Scot thus combats popular ideas: "No one 
endued with common sense but will deny that the elements 
are obedient to witches, and at their commandment or that 
they may, at their pleasure, send rain, hail, tempests, thunder 
and lightning, when she, being but an old doting woman, 
casteth a flint-stone over her left shoulder toward the west, 
or hurleth a little sea sand up into the element, or wetteth a 
broom sprig in water and sprinkleth the same in the air; 
or diggeth a pit in the earth, and, putting water therein, 
stirreth it about with her finger, or boileth hog's bristles; 
or layeth sticks across a bank where never was a drop of 
water, or burieth sage until it shall be rotten; all which 
things are confessed by witches and affirmed by writers" 
to be the means that witches used to move extraordinary 
tempests and rain. 

J Another old work thus alludes to these witches; "The 
imagination of women persuadeth them that they are capa- 
ble of disturbing the air, of exciting tempests, and of induc- 
ing maladies. But Satan's prescience, enabling him to dis- 
cover what shall take place in the heavens, he puts this in 

♦ Maguusson & Morris. — Grettir Saga. 
+ Discovery of Witchcraft, I'^l. 

* "'""ffni- (ifi \j3xa\ et Pythonicis, in Jones' Credulities. 


their head, when they wish to be avenged of their neighbor 
it is that they hope to succeed by casting flint-stones behinc 
their backs, toward the West, by throwing the sand of i 
torrent in the air, by placing beams across a river, by boiling 
hog's bristles and other absurdities." 

* Again we are told, " The broom dipped in the water by 
the witch does not bring rain, but the demon having power 
over the elements, by God's permission, can do so immedi- 

King James VI, who wrote shortly after Scot, affirmed 
that witches could and did do all these things, and added to 
their wind-raising repute the royal authorit}'. King James 
had himself been a victim of their machinations. In 1590, 
while on his way from Denmark, to bring his bride to Scot- 
land, his ship was assailed by a storm, but missed a greater 
tempest, sent against him, it was said, by a number of witches. 
The chief actors were a Dr. Fian and Agnes Sampson, a 
celebrated witch. They were tortured, and made various 
confessions. Dr. Fian said Satan was the chief agent, and 
he sent a mist, to cause the king's ships to go ashore. Both 
he and the women testified that all, two hundred witches 
and warlocks in number, sailed in sieves on Hallowmas-eve, 
and were met by the devil (one said he rolled along like a 
huge wave), and were given by him a black cat. This was 
drowned in the sea, with cries of " Holal " raising a great 

f Satan raised the mist by casting something like a foot- 
ball into the sea. They also chased a cat, to raise a storm. 
"The devil promised John Fian to rais ane mist, and cast 
the King's Majesty in England, and for performing thairof 
he tuik ane thing lyk to ane futt-ball, qu' hilk apperit to 
the same Johnni (an eyewitness) lyk to a wisp, and cast the 
same in the see, qu' hilk causit ane vapour and ane reik to 

Agnes Sampson, with four other witches, raised a tempest 
b)"^ throwing in the sea a cat, with portions of a dead man 
tied to it; and on another occasion, feasted on the wines of 
a foreign ship, and then sank her, with the devil's aid. 

I The old chronicle of these events further tells us: 
"Thairefter, at Bergie Todis' house, they knitt to the foure 
feit of the catt foure jointis of men; quhilk being done, the 

♦ Martin de Aries. 

+ Wright.— Sorcery and Witchcraft, 120. 

tThe Damnable Life of Dr. Fian.— Gents' Magajine, 1779, p. 449 


said Janit fetched it to Leith, and about midnight she and 
twa Luike hop and twa wijfis, callit Slobeis, came to the 
peir-head, and saying their wordis, 'See that thair be na 
desait amang us,' and they cast the catt in the see, sa far 
as they mycht, quhilk swam owre and cam again; and they 
that war in the pains, cast in ane other catt in the sea at XI 
houris, after quhilk, be their sorcerie and inchantments, the 
boit perished betwixt Leith and Kinghorne." 

Other Scotch witches raised storms at sea. Janet Irving, 
with Satan's aid, sank a boat with five persons, in Westray 
Firth. Alison Dick said to her husband, in 1663: "Mony 
ill turns have I hindered thee from doing this thretty years; 
mony ships and boats hast thou put down, and when I 
would have holden the string to have saved one man, thou 
would not." One of the charges against Elizabeth Bath- 
cart, was casting away and sinking George Hulde's ship, 
with several persons in it. She met with Satan on the sea- 
shore, and, by his aid, " maist cruelly sank and destroyed 
the schip." She was acquitted because they were not seen, 
" fleeing like crawis, ravens, or other foulis " about the ship, 
as was thought usual with witches. 

*On Solway Firth, Maggie Forsythe was accounted a 
great storm-raiser. A sailor said: "I'll tell thee what, Mar- 
gery Forsythe has mair forecast in the concerns o' the great 
deep than a wise mariner ought to despise." 

Isobel Gowdie confessed that she raised a storm in 1662, 
by wetting a cloth, beating it upon a stone, and calling 
upon Satan. Similar means were employed by other witches. 

Margaret Barclay caused the wreck of a ship by molding 
a figure of it in wax and casting it into the sea. She sank 
her husband's brother's ship, in sight of land. 

Violet Leys, because of her husband's discharge from a 
ship, so haunted it with storms that it was near being lost, 
and much cargo was thrown overboard. 

f A Dunrosses witch, becoming vexed at a boat's crew, 
put a wooden cup into a bowl of water, and sang to the 
devil. The water became agitated, the cup overturned- and 
the boat never came in. 

J Mary Lamont, eighteen years old, raised storms and 
allayed them by casting stones into the Clyde. She 
wrecked ships on Kintyre Mull. 

• Cunnincrham.— Traditional Tales of the Scottish and English Peasa3«y. 
+ Gregor.— Folt-lore of Scotland, 
t Grant.— Mysteries, 538. 


Some witches knew the fate of boats at sea. Jona 
Dyneis prophesied evil to her husband's boat. Bessie Ske- 
bister predicted that the crew of a stranded boat were saved; 
and so great was her repute that boatmen and sailors, far 
and near, consulted her, and relied on her prognostications. 

Macbeth says to the witches, — 

* "Answer me, 
Though you untie the winds, and let them fight 
Against the churches; though the yesty waves 
Confound and swallow navigation up." 

And the witches themselves relate their power over the 
wind and waves, — 

"2d Witch. I'll give thee a wind. 
^d Witch. And I another. 
■; jst Witch. I myself have all the other; 

And the very ports they blow. 
All the quarters that they know, 
r the shipman's card." 

And she further relates her means of controling them, — 

" Here have I a pilot's thumb, 
Wrecked as homeward he did come." 

f Noma, in the " Pirate," says, — 

"Ye who taught weak woman's hand 
How to wield the magic wand, 
And wake the gates on Foulah's steep. 
Or lull wild Sumburgh's waves to sleep." 

Again she says, — 

" The billows know my runic lay, 
The gulf grows smooth, the stream is still'd." 

J Other witches tell us, — 

"We lay the wind in the devil's name, 
It shall not rise qu' hill we lyk to raise it again. 
If it does not, we may say, ' Theiffe! Theiffe! ' 
Conjure the wind, and cause it to lie." 

A belief in the storm-raising powers of witches was long- 
est held in the Shetland and Orkney Islands. Marian Pee- 
bles,! in the former isles, in 1642, assumed the shape of a 

* Act IV, scene 1. 

+ Sir Waiter Scott — Pirat<?. - 

t Wright. — Witchci-aft and Sorcery in the Middle Ages, p. 358. 

8 Scott.— Demonology and Witchcraft; 


porpoise, and wrecked a boat with five men. Another witch 
used a bowl in water, thus causing storms, and a third em- 
ployed this means to wreck boats in the bay of Furzie. 

These notions concerning witches prevailed also in Eng- 
land, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 

The following extract from a state paper refers to the 
witches of the time of Charles I. * " The greatest news 
from the country is of a huge pack of witches, which are 
lately discovered in Lancashire, whereof it is said nineteen 
are condemned, and that there are at least sixty already dis- 
covered, and yet daily there are more reveal'd; there are 
divers of them of good ability, and they have done much 
harm. I hear it is suspected that they had a hand in rais- 
ing the great storm wherein his Majesty was in so great 
danger at Sea iii Scotland." 

f In 1716, a Mrs. Hicks and her daughter were tried as 
witches in England. Among other things, they were said 
to have raised storms and wrecked ships by pulling off their 
shoes, and making with them a lather of soapsuds. An- 
other old witch in Devonshire was popularly reported to 
raise storms. A visit to her cabin brought to light several 
implements of her incantations. A mop-handle had the 
head ornamented with a miniature sail, and a dried fish. 

Another Devonshire tradition relates that three witches 
boarded a vessel at sea, feasted on rich food, and sank the 

At Borrowstone, a witch was accused of sending a storm 
to wreck her son, who had been washed overboard by one 
wave and back by the next. 

J An old woman named Leckie, living in Somersetshire, 
was said to have caused storms. She would come to the 
pier and call for a boat. If it came, all in it would be 
wrecked. If it did not come, the same fate awaited them. 
She appeared in her own shape in her son's vessel, and 
raised a storm by blowing a tin whistle, when the ship 
was wrecked, but the men saved. Seamen affirmed they 
often heard the old lady's whistle in a gale. A witch on 
the Isle of Man was said to have caused a storm and the 
loss of all of the herring fleet. She was put in a spiked 
barrel and rolled down a hill. 

§ The witch of Fraddam, alluded to in the " Legends of 

* " The Lancashire Witches." 
+ Scott.— Demonology and Witchcraft. 
t Scott.— Notes to Rokebjvp. 16. 
SBottrell.- Traditions of West Cornwall. 


the Spectre Ship," cruises still off the coast of England in 
her coffin, and raises storms. At St. Leven, Cornwall, is a 
cubical pile of stones called Madge Figge's chair. A witch 
so named was fabled to sit there and conjure up storms. 

Another witch is still to be seen, at times, on the Logan 
rock, on the same coast, gloating over wrecks. 

* We read in Sandy's Ovid, " I have heard of sea-faring 
men, and some of Bristol, how a quartermaster in a Bristol 
ship, then trading in the streights, going down into the hold, 
saw a sort of women, his own neighbors, making merr}- 
together, and taking their cups liberally; who having espied 
him, and threatening that he should report their discovery, 
vanished suddenly out of sight; who thereupon was lame 
forever after. The ship having made her voyage, nowe 
homeward bound, and neere her harbour, stuck fast in the 
deep sea, before a fresh gaile, to their no small amazement, 
nor for all they could doe, together with the helpe that 
came from the shore, could thej^ get her loose, until one (as 
Cynothea, the Trojan ship), shoved her off with his shoulder." 
This was alleged against the witches as a piece of revenge, 
and they were convicted and executed. 

The witch of Hayle received money so late as the eight- 
eenth century for keeping storms from sailor's vessels. One 
of the last storm-raising witches was Annie Bodenham. But 
saj's Grant; f " It is but a few years since a pretended 
wizard professed to remove an evil spell from a sea captain, 
by making him throw a stone in the sea, and by uttering 
certain gibberish." 

I Middleton reproduces these popular ideas concerning 
witches, — 

" She raises all your sudden num'rous storms 
That shipwreck barks." 

Storm-making witches were known all over Europe. In 
the Norse Gisli Saga, a witch, Andbroga, raised a storm bj- 
going around "against the sun," and wrecked ships. In 
§ "Grettir the Strong," a witch, makes the sea smooth before 
a boat. According to a Schleswick-Holstein legend, three 
witches are overheard by a lad to declare their purpose of 
following and wrecking their husbands' ships. They de- 
clare that a clean-handed person, with a virgin sword, could 

* Jones. — Credulities. 
+ Mysteries of all Nation 
f'The Witch. " 
S Magnusson and Moriis. 


repel them. When they came, in the shape of three waves, 
the j'outh struck them with his new sword, and the waves 
were red with blood. When the sea-faring men returned 
home, all their wives were dead. 

Mannhardt tells a story of a German girl, who, when 
asked what she was doing at a fountain, replied: "I am 
doing what mother does. She takes a stick and turns it 
round in the fountain, and then there comes a storm." * 

We hear of the deeds of storm-raising witches in New 
England. Margaret Jones, of Charlestown, was executed for 
witchcraft.f Soon afterward a ship, on which the witch's 
husband was to have sailed for the Barbadoes, commenced 
to roll violently at anchor in smooth water, continuing the 
motion for twelve hours. Finally the husband of the 
executed witch was arrested, and while on his way over to 
Boston, when asked by the sheriff if he could not stop the 
ship's rolling, did so on being shown the warrant for his 

A ship going from London to Virginia, in 1674, is said 
to have encountered storms and other disasters from the 
machinations of witches. 

Polly Twichell, who lived in Casco Bay in the seven- 
teenth century, was said to raise storms, wreck ships and 
put to sea in severe gales. 

J Goody Cole, in the " Wreck of Rivermouth," prophesies 
disaster.. The skipper says, — 

" I'm scary always to see her shake 
Her wicked head." 

The ballad recounts that she was jeered at by the pleas- 
ure party, prophesied the boat's loss, which occurred soon 

§ Moll Pitcher, at Lynn, was also reputed a storm-raiser, 
and there are other legends of witches on our coast, who 
raised storms and wrecked ships. 

We have seen how potent were the Finns and Laplanders 
in the sailors' imagination, in raising storms and in smooth- 
ing the waves. But they were also particular!}' famed for a 
traffic in winds, selling them to sailors for a stated price. 

This selling of winds, as we have before said, is chron- 

• See also Nicolai Kemigii, Cologne, 1596, in Figuer, Hist, du Merveilleux, 

+ Mass. Hist. Collection. 

t Whittier's Poema. 

j Drake. — Legends and Folk-lore of New England. 


icled of these same Laplanders and Finns by Olaus Magnus.* 
They gave a cord with three knots in it. If one were 
loosed, a fair wind would blow; if two, a storm, and three, 
a gale. Olaus says, " The Finlanders were wont formerly, 
among their other errors of gentilism, to sell winds to mer- 
chants that were stopped on their coast by contrary winds, 
and when they had their price, they knit three magical 
knots, not like the laws of Cassias, bound up with a thong, 
and they gave them to the merchants, observing this rule, 
that when they unloosed the first, they should have a good 
gale of wind; when the second, a stronger wind; but when 
they untied the third, they should have such cruel tem- 
pests that they should not be able to look out of the 
forecastle to avoid the rocks, nor move a foot to pull down 
the sails, nor stand at the helm to govern the ship; and they 
made an unhappy trial of the truth of it, who denied that 
there was any such power in the knots. 

f An earlier chronicler writes thus concerning this trade: 
" In that Ilonde is sortilege and witchcraft, for women there 
sell the shipmen v/j-nde, as it were closed vnder thre knotes 
of threde, so that the more vi'3-nde he would have, the more 
knotes he mvst vndo." 

J Two later authors speak of the selling of wind-knots 
"practiced by the Norwegian Finnlapps." 

§ Cotton Mather sa3's; "A Laplander, the successors of 
old Biarni, who can with looks or words bewitch- other 
people, or sell winds to mariners." 

Drayton, in the "Moon Calf," sings (865), — 

"She could sell winds to anyone that would 
Buy them for money, forcing them to hold 
What time she listed, tie them in a thread. 
Whichever way the seafarer wended 
They rose or scanted, as his sails would drive 
To the same port, whereas he would arrive." 

I Thorpe tells a legend of a skipper of Aarhus, who was 
given by a " Finlap," a bag containing the winds, whereby 
he might have any wind he wished, by hanging it outside 
his cabin door. 

The Finns did not, however, possess a monopoly in this 

* History of the G oths. 

tHigden — Polychronicon, 1+84. 

$ Scheffer. — Lapp<inia 

SMaguaJia Cliristi Americana. — *' More Wonders," eto. 

I Northern Mythology, Bk. II, p. 193. 


profitable wind-trade ; others were early in the field. Glan- 
vill tells us concerning the inhabitants of Vinland:* "They 
often sell winds to navigators cast or detained on their 
shores. They make a ball of thread by tying in it several 
knots. They loose as many as three or more, according to 
the strength of the wind desired." 

f At Siseby, on the Schlei, lived a witch imp, some fifty 
years ago, who sold winds to fishermen, giving them a cloth 
with three knots tied in it. 

J Winds were sold at. one time at Mount St. Michael, in 
Normandy, by a Druidess. Three arrows were given the 
purchaser, but they must be shot by a young man under 

§ Scott tells us: "At the village of Stromness, on the 
Orkney main island, called Pomona, lived, in 1814, an aged 
dame called Bessie Millie, who helped out her subsistence by 
selling winds to mariners. He was a venturesome master of a 
vessel, who left the roadstead of Stromness without paying his 
offering to propitiate Bessie Millie. Her fee was extremely 
moderate, being exactly sixpence, for which, as she explained 
herself, she boiled her kettle, and gave the bark the advan- 
tage of her prayers, for she disclaimed all unlawful arts." 

They were sold in the Isle of Man during the present 
century.|| Old John McTaggart was a trader between Kin- 
tyre and Ireland. Wishing to get a fair wind to waft his 
bark across to the Emerald Isle, he applied to an old woman, 
who was said to be able to give this. He received from her 
two strings, each bearing three knots. He undid the first 
knot, and there blew a fine breeze. On opening the second, 
the breeze became a gale. On nearing the Irish shore, he^ 
loosed the third, and such a hurricane arose that some of 
the houses on shore were destroyed. On coming back to 
Kintyre, he was careful to loose only two knots on the re- 
maining string." 

** Sumner thus chronicles the common belief, — 

" In Ireland and in Denmark both. 
Witches for gold will sell a man a wind. 
Which, if in the corner of a napkin wrapp'd. 
Shall blow him safe unto what coast he will." 

*De Proprietatibus Eerum, Bk. 60, p. 172. 

+ Thorpe.— Northern Mythology, Bk. Ill, p. 23. 

i Brewer.— Reader's Hand Book. " St. Michael." 

§ Notes to Pirate. 

I P. Mcintosh.— History of Kintyre. 1870. 

•* Last Win and Testament, 1660. Brewer.— Readers' Hand Book. 


And we read in " Rokeby," — 

" What gales are sold on Lapland's shore.*' 

■ * Chinese mendicants pretend to sell winds, and so late 
as 1861, John Suttern, in Cornwall, claimed that he could buy 
a wind, but the trade has grown unprofitable in this age of 
steam, and we hear of it seldom.f Two persons, George 
and Eppie Foreman, were reputed a few years since, in a vil- 
lage in England, to deal in winds. No boat sailed without 
their being consulted. 

These weather-makers all derive their power from the 
same source — Satanic intervention in the control of the ele- 
ments. They are represented as having their power only 
through invocations of the Prince of Darkness, who had 
succeeded to the degraded gods of heathendom in his 
control of the weather. Sorcerers and witches were popu- 
larly supposed to derive all their powers from Satan, and 
hence the powers of the law and of the church were invoked 
against them. Women, being regarded as cruel and crafty, 
were especially his agents, hence were deemed unlucky on 
board ship, arid as witches, possessed of great power over 
the storm and the wave. Although they derived their power 
from an opposite source, it was really a step in the same 
direction that led to the transferrence of this control from 
the saints to more accessible, and more venal agents. 

We must regard the sale of the winds as a survival of an 
earlier stage of fetichism. The knots are a charm, serving 
precisely as the charm of the African, to work out the desires 
of the possessor. The transition from the bag of ./Eolus, that 
must be loosed to free the winds, to the knotted string was 
a natural one. The loosing of these knots corresponded to 
the shooting of arrows by the Namaquas, firing of muskets 
into storms by the Kalmucks, and other measures to charm 
or frighten the storm-demon. 

Having thus considered the agents engaged in weather- 
making, there still remains a large class of weather-makers 
— passive instruments for the most part, in the hands of these 
agents — the secret of whose connection with the winds and 
weather is often past discovery. Not only were these ani- 
mate beings imagined, for various reasons, to have some 
mj-sterious dealings with the storm-powers, but we also find 

•Grant.— Mysteries of all Nations, p. 65. 
tEraser.— V, p.65.. 

■ ■ ■ ■-:.■■*;'? 

.fl Ji-'i 



'. * — '- •''■. .■■^Es-■<-■ 

' * iL < " 




inanimate objects and obscure actions classed in the same 

Certain animals were once thought to provoke storms at 
sea-, and were thus regarded as unlucky b)' seamen. A dead 
hare on board ship has long been thought a storm-bringer. 
The hare is unlucky in many folk-lore stories. Many people, 
as Lapps, Finns, Chinese, Arabs and Hottentots, will not eat 
it. As an animal supposed to see at night, it was connected 
with the moon, shining by night, and we have Eastern tra- 
ditions of the hare in the moon. Hence it is, with the moon, 
a weather-maker. 

In Hottentot lore, it was the servant of the moon. 
Gubernatis sa)'s:* "The mythical hare is undoubtedly the 
moon. Spots in the moon suggest it, and the same name is 
used in Sanskrit for them and for the hare. In a Buddhist 
legend, it is transfigured into the moon." 

It is connected with many superstitions in Germany, and 
English witches are said to have become hares. Camden 
says a day was set apart in Ireland for killing hares, found 
among the cattle, as witches. A writer in the Atherueum, 
in 1846, speaks of a witch in Scotland " who has been seen a 
hundred times milking the cows in the shape of a hare." 
Traditionally, it is greatly affected by the weather, and is 
especially frisky about the vernal equinox, and hence the 
proverb, "As mad as a March hare," or as it was in the seven- 
teenth century, "Staring madde like March hares." f 

In Cornish belief, a white hare appears before a storm, on 
the docks and wharves. 

" Fishermen in Berkshire," says an old chap book, " look 
on all hares to be devils and witches, and if they but see a 
sign of a dead hare, it sets them all trembling." 

An English ship got into a gale not many j'ears since, 
and a dead hare found on board was immediately thrown 
into the sea, as the bringer of the storm. 

I In Scotland, you must not say to a fisherman, " you 
have a hare (kink) in your creel," or name the animal in his 
boat, or bring any portion of it there, for it is sure to pro- 
voke a storm. 

It is also unlucky on board of French ships. 

§ The cat was still more widely feared as a storm-bringer, 

* Zoological Mythology, VoL I. 

+ Boli:ke of Knowledge. 

i Grant. — Mysteries, j>. WQ. 

§ Hazlitt.- Pop. Antiq. of Great Britain. 


and is always unlucky on board ship. She " carries a gale 
in her tail," and is *thought particularly to provoke a storm 
bj' playing with a gown or apron, rubbing her face, lick- 
ing her fur the wrong way, etc. 

f In Sicilian belief, the mewing of a cat while telling a 
rosary for sailors, presages a tedious voyage. Provoking a 
cat will certainly bring a gale, in sailor belief, and drown- 
ing one will surely raise a tempest. | Fielding says, " The 
kitten at last recovered, to the great joy of the good captain, 
but to the great disappointment of some of the sailors, who 
asserted that the drowning of a cat was the very surest way 
of raising a favorable wind." 

§ Cheever saj's: "We took on board' at Gibraltar a large 

and beautiful cat. We were bound to , and, as it 

happened, had a tedious succession of light head winds and 
dead calms. The sailors at last began to look on our new 
comer as a sort of Jonas on board. The next morning, the 
black cat was missing, and suspicion fell very justly on an 
old sailor who had been heard to threaten her life. I asked 
this old sailor what could induce him to commit such an 
act of cruelty. He acknowedged that he sank her to get a 

II Brand says: "Sailors, I am informed on the authority 
of a naval officer, have a great dislike to see the cat on 
board ship, unusually playful or frolicsome; such an event 
they consider prognosticates a storm, and they have a say- 
ing on these occasions that ' a cat has a gale of wind in her 
tail.' " 

** In Newcastle, England, throwing a cat overboard pro- 
voked a storm, and sailors' wives in Scarborough, some 
years since, kept a black cat in the house to insure their 
husband's safety at sea. 

Marryat tells a sailor-story of the murder of a cat, where 
great disasters followed. The captain and first lieutenant, 
in opposition to the wishes of a crew, shot a cat, and are 
killed shortty afterward in a boat expedition. 

f f In " The Honest Penny," a cat causes a stormi at sea. 

II There is a storj- told on Block Island, of a man who 

•Grant.— Mysteries, p. 396. 

+ Gubernatis.— Zoological Mythology, VoL H, p. 64. 

t Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon, 1775. 

§ Sea and Shore. 

I Popular AntiquitieB, III, p. 7. 

** Folk-lore Record. 

+t Dasent.— Tales from the Norse. 

tt Livermore.— HistotT of Block Island. 


shut a cat up in a barrel to prevent a skipper from sailing, 
against whom he had a grudge, and no wind came until the 
cat was released. 

* In a Chinese tale, an iron cat. General Mao, appears 
floating on the water, sent by the water-king to raise a 

Flaws on the surface of the water are in sailor-lore " cat's- 
paws." f There is a Hungarian proverb that a cat does not 
die in water, hence its paws disturb the surface. A larger 
flurry on the water is a "cat-skin." So it rains "cats and 
dogs," and the stormy northwest wind in some parts of Eng 
land is the "cat's-nose." In Chinese-lore, tigers cause 
storms, and the Japanese wind-god has steel claws and a 
tigerish countenance. 

In Germany, there is a proverb that any one making a 
cat his enemy, will be attended at his funeral by rats and 

\ In Lancashire belief, stormy and wet weather is coming 
when the cat frisks about the house. § It is said in Iceland 
if she stretches so that her paws touch each other, bad 
weather will ensue. 

II Scotch fishermen declare that if the cat sneeze or licks 
her paws, rain will surely come. ** In Shetland, the cat 
"gaanin in da luft," foretells wind, and "sleepin' upon her 
hams," (with the back of her head down) indicates calms. 

ff " If the cat washes her face over the ear 

'Tis a sign the weather'll be fine and clear," 

says an old proverb. But if she only washed it over one 
ear, it was a sign of bad weather. 

|;J Melton, an old writer, says; "When the cat washes her 
face over the eare, we shall have great store of rain." 

Cats were, as we have seen, used by witches in raising a 
gale, and are said to smell a wind, while pigs see it. On 
shipboard, the malevolent character of the cat is shown in 
nautical nomenclature, and the song lately popular, — 

" It was the cat," 

* Giles. Tales by Ping Sung Ling. 

+ Gubematis.— Zoological Mythology, Vol. II, p. 64. 
X Notes and Queries. Choice Notes, 189. 
\ } Powell and Magnus^on.— Icelandic Legends. 
I Gregor.— Folk-lore of Scotland. 
•• Blind.— Contemporarr Review, September, 1683. 
++ Swaingon.— Weather-lore. 
Vi Astrologaster. 


is liable to more than a double interpretation. The cat-o'- 
nine-tails is not a desirable acquaintance, nor do sailors have 
a love for the miscellaneous gear connected with raising the 
anchor, such as the cat-head, cat-fall, cat-tail, cat-hook, cat- 
back, etc. The lubber's hole, through which it is thought 
derogatory to the able seaman to pass, is in French, " Trou 
de Chat." Weak tea is called by sailors "cat-lap," an un- 
satisfactory sleep, a "cat-nap." 

* " The cat in folk-lore is commonly 'diabolical," says 
Gubernatis, " and in the bag of proverbs has probably a dia- 
bolical allusion. The popular idea that it has nine lives, ex- 
presses its mystic character." 

Cats see better at night, are conneeted with the moon in 
many legends, are witches' familiars, and hence are eyed 
askant by many. 

f The Egyptian goddess of evil, Pasht, was a cat-headed 

X Hecate transformed herself into a cat to escape Typhon, 
and Diana became a cat. Hellenic cosmogony declared that 
the moon created the cat. Freya, the Norse goddess, was 
attended by cats, and thus Friday, her day, was thought 

§ In Hungary, every cat was thought to be a witch from 
its seventh to its twelfth year. The nightmare often comes 
as a cat in Germany, where also the sea was popularly called 
a cat.\\ 

** Blind thinks the cat's sensitiveness to meteorological 
changes may have helped the formation of these ideas in 
regard to her connection with the weather. This is doubt- 
less true, but the chief cause of the superstition was, perhaps,, 
her connection with the moon, and her supposed diabolical 
character; especially true, it was believed, of the black cat, 
the representative of the cloudy, moonless night. 

ft A spectral dog " shony " is said to predict a storm when 
appearing on the Cornish beach. 

To mention the name of a dog will bring on a storm, saj' 
Scotch fishermen, and the dog when he howls fortells the 
tempest, in common belief. J|" The wind will come from 

* Zoological Mythology, Vol. IT, p. 65. 

+ Zoological M5-thology, Vol. II, p. 66. 

t Ovid.— Metamorphoses, V, 32.5, 32. 

§ Gubernatis.— Zool. Mythology, Vol IT, p. 67. 

a Simroch. — Deutsche M^^hology, 217. 

** Contemporary Review, S> pteniber. 1S.S1. 

++ Hunt.— Komances and Drolls of the North of England. 

STenne.— Volkssagen aiis Poniinem. p. 247. 


the direction in which a dog points his nose when he 
howls." He is connected with the Wild Hunt in nearly all 
folk-lore — is a psychopomp, or soul-bearer, and is gener- 
ally diabolical. On board ships, however, he is not usually 
disliked, probably by reason of his usefulness on watch, in 

Many birds were thought to have dealings with the 
storm-spirits. Fishermen in the English Channel thought 
the east wind caused by the flight of curlew, or herring- 
spear, on dark nights. In an old ballad they are called 
"the seven whistlers," and portend storm. Seven is a num- 
ber suspiciously mystical. *They were thought to announce 
great disasters, when passing over Yorkshire villages. In 
Lancashire they are called " Wandering Jews," and there is 
a tradition that they are the souls of Jews who assisted at 
the crucifixion, and hence are doomed ever to wander. Wf: 
have seen that the Wandering Jew was a storm-bringer, in 

f An old fisherman said to Buckland: " I think no good 
of them. There's always an accident when they come. I 
heard 'em once one dark night last winter. They come over 
our heads all of a sudden, singing ' Ewe, Ewe,' and the men 
in the boat wished to go back. It came on to rain and blow, 
and was an awful night, and sure enough, before morning, 
a boat was upset, and seven poor fellows drowned. I know 
what makes the noise, sir. It's them long-billed curlew, but 
I never likes to hear them." 

I The cuckoo is, in England, a noted weather-bird, and 
fishermen listen for its first notes in the spring, as an indi- 
cation of the weather and luck for the year. Cuckoos are 
thought in parts of England to appear before an equinoctial 
gale, and such a storm is a. gowk-storm, — after that' bird. 

The swan floating in the waves is a harbinger of good 
weather, in many places. 

Sea-fowl are regarded as furnishing indications of con; 
ing storm or sunshine in various localities. 

" \Vhen sea-birds fly to land, 
A storm is at hand/' 

is the general expression of this belief. 

§ In England, in 1790, it was said that rain and high winds 

•Notes and Queries. 

+ Curiosiries of Naturnl History. 1. 288. 

t I).Ter.— English Folk-lore. 

§ Grant.—Mysteries of all Nations, p. 396. 


from the south-southwest follow the appearance of sea-mews, 
within twenty-four hours. A Scotch rhyme says, — 

*" Sea-gull, sea-gull, sit on the sand, 

It's never good weather when you're on the land." 

So the chattering and chuckling of sea-gulls, and flutter- 
ing of all sea-fowl in calms, cleaning their feathers, says 
Pliny, is a sign of bad weather, and later traditions report 
the same. 

f " Sea-gulls in the field' mean a southeast storm, when it 
is over, they go back on the beach," is a belief in Scotland, 
also alluded to by Scott, — 

"The sea-birds, with portentous shriek 
Flew fast to land." 

We find the same ideas in three old English works. 
Wilsford J says, when sea-mews piake more than ordinary 
gurgling in the morning, wet weather will follow. This is 
corroborated in another old work, which also says that when 
fowls fly low over the sea, or high over the land, bad weather 
will follow. Again we read, " Some have observed evil 
weather to follow when watery fowls leave the sea, desiring 
lande; the fowles of the land flying hygher, the crying of 
fowles above water, making a great noyse with their wynges, 
also the seas swelling with unaccustomed waves." 

These ideas may be traced back to antiquity. 

Virgil says, — 

§ " When crying cormorants forsake the sea. 
And stretching to the coast, wend their way; 
When watchful herons leave their wat'ry stand, 
^And mounting upward, with erected flight 
Gain on the skies and soar above the sight," 

wet weather will come. 

The celebrated little bird, the Mother Gary's chicken, 
was also supposed to appear before a storm, as its name, 
the Procellaria, would indicate. It is also called alamottie 
and storm-fish. Its name Mother Gary's chicken means the 
bird of the Mater Gara, the Aves Sanctos Marias, or the 
Oiseau de Notre Dame, of French sailors. Its name of 
petrel is from the Italian Petrello, or Little Peter, as it is 

» Dver.— English Folk-lore, p. 100. 

+ Sir J. Sinclair. Statistical account of Scotland, in Brand.— Bk. Ill, p. 218. 

♦ "Nature's Secrets." Q. By Brand, 111, 218. 

§ Dryden. — Georgia, I. 


supposed, like that saint, to walk the water. The tradition 
of its storm-foreboding character is shown in these lines 
from a modern poet, — 

* " The petrel telleth her tale in vain. 

For the mariner curseth the warning bird, 
Who bringeth him news of storms we heard." 

And Mrs. Howitt says, — 

f "Oh, stormy, stormy peterel! 
Thou art a bird of woe, 
Yet would I thou couldst tell me half 
Of the misery thou dost know." 

J Pennant thinks these birds gather from the water sea- 
animals, or their broken bodies, and hence find them in 
greater abundance before or after a storm, when the deep 
sea waves stir them up, and that thus mariners are warned 
of approaching storins. 

The goylir, another sea-bird, is thought to appear before 
a storm, and was named by Spanish sailors "malafigo," or 

It is thought b}' sailors a bad thing to kill a gull, and 
especiall)'^ an albatross, and the "Ancient Mariner's " ill luck 
thus arose: 

g " At length did cross an albatross, 
Through the fog it came. 
As if it had been a Christian soul, 

We hailed it in God's name. 

"And I had done a hellish thing, 

And it would work 'em woe. 
For all averred I had killed the bird 

That made the breeze to blow. 
'Ahl wretch,' said they, 'the bird to slay, 

That made the breeze to blow! ' " 

But when the fog cleared away, the)' recant and say, — 

' ' Then all averred I had killed the bird 
That brought the fog and mist; 
, ' 'Twas right, ' said they, ' such birds to slay. 
That bring the fog and mist.' " 

\ De Quincey says Coleridge got the idea of the weather- 

*Barrv Cornwall.— Poems. 

+ The Stormj- Petrel. 

t Zoology. 

§ Coleridge.— The Ancient Mariner. 

I See Chap. VII. 


bringing qualities of the slain albatross from a passage in 
Shelvocke's voyages, where the mate attributes a long spell 
of bad weather to the presence of an albatross. 

A wide-spread tradition exists in many lands of the king- 
fisher. * This is, as Pliny tells us it was in Roman times, 
thus: " Halcyon days, days that are favorable to navigation. 
It is for this that the halcyon is more especially remarkable 
to the sea and those who sail on its surface. They hatch 
their young- at the time of the winter solstice, from which 
circumstance these days are- known as the ' halcyon days.' 
During this period the sea is calm and navigable, the Sicil- 
ian sea in particular. They make their nest during the 
seven days before the winter solstice, and sit the same num- 
ber of days afterward." In another place the same author 
says, " For seven days before the winter solstice, and for the 
same length of time after it, the sea becomes calm, in order 
that the kingfishers may rear their young. From this cir- 
cumstance they have obtained the name of halcyon days; 
the rest of the season is wintry." 

Virgil says, in the " Georgics," among stormy weather 
prognostications, — 

" Nor halcyons bask on the short sunny shore." 

f Theocritus writes thus, — 

' May halcyons smooth the waves and calm the seas, 
And the rough southeast sink into a breeze." 

JSimonides tells us: "When Zeus in the winter season 
creates twice seven mild days, mortals sa\', ' this tepid 
weather is nourishing the variously painted halc3''ons.' " 

§ Plutarch bears testimony to the same tradition. He 
says, " Bttt when the halcj'on brings forth, about the winter 
solstice, the whole ocean remains calm and undisturbed, 
without the wrinkle of a wave. So that there is not any 
creature for which man has so great an affection, seeing that 
for her sake for seven days and seven nights together, in 
the depth of winter, they sail without fear of shipwreck, 
and may thus voyage on the sea with greater safety than 
they travel on the land." He also says she makes a floating 
nest of thorns, and sits on it. 

• Nat. Hist., Bk. X. Ch. 47. 

+ IdyUs.— Fawkes' Trans. VII, 73. 

tin Plutarch's Morals, Goodwin's Trans. 

5 Plutarch.— Morals. 


* Ovid reports the ancient tradition, — 

"Alcyone comprest, 
Seven days sits brooding on her floating nest, 
A wintery queen. Her sire at length is kind. 
Calms every storm and hushes everj" wind, 
Prepares his surface for his daughter's ease, 
And for his hatching nephews smooths the seas." 

The Greeks gave the bird the name of Alcyon, saying 
that the daughter of .^olus, so named, drowned herself, and 
was changed into a bird, along with her lost husband, Ceyx. 

Later writers kept up the superstition. Ariosto says, — 

■ Along the coast the mourning halcyon's heard 
Lamenting sore her spouse's fate." 

And Camoens, — 

f " The halcyon birds their words of mourning told 
Along the roaring coast, sad scene of woe." 

JWilford tells us: "The halcyon, at the time of breed- 
ing, which is about fourteen days before the winter's sol- 
stice, foreshows a quiet and tranquil time, as it is observed 
about the coasts of Sicily, from whence the proverb is trans- 
ported of halcyon days." 

And Wild,— 

§" The peaceful kingfishers are met together 

About the decks, and prophesy calm weather.'' 

Dryden says, — . 

" Amidst our arms as quiet you shall be 
As halcyons breeding on a winter's sea.'' 

And Southey, — 

\ " The halcyons brood around the foamless isles, 
The treacherous ocean has foresworn its wiles." 

And Shenstone, — 

** " Why o'er the verdant banks of Ooze, 
Does yonder halcyon speed so fast ? 
'Tis all because she would not lose 
Her favorite calm that will not last." 

♦ Jletaniorphoees. XII. 

+0s Lusiados. — Mickle's Trans. 

t Nature's Secrets. 

§ Iter Boreale, Vol. IL 

B Epipschrcodrion. 

"Ode to the Winds. 


Milton also, — 

" The winds with wonder whist, 
Smoothly the waters kissed, 
Whispering new joys to the mild ocean, 
Who now hath quite forgot to rave. 
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave." 

And Shakespeare, — 

t " Expect St. Martin's summer, halcyon days.'' 

J Sir Thomas Browne is disposed to doubt the agency of 
the halcyons. " For at that time, which happeneth about 
the brumal solstice, it hath been observed, even unto a prov- 
erb, that the sea is calm and the winds do cease, till the 
young ones are excluded and forsake their nest, which float- 
eth upon the sea, and by the roughness of the winds, might 
otherwise be overwhelmed." " But how fare hereby to mag- 
nify their prediction, we have no certain rule; for whether 
out of any particular provision they choose to set at this 
time, or whether it be their custom by concourse of care and 
providence of nature, is not yet determined." 

This ancient tradition may perhaps be derived from one 
still more ancient. The Ribhus of Ar3'an mythology, storm- 
demons, slept for twelve nights about the winter solstice, as 
we know from translations from the Aryan writings; and 
one of Weber's texts reads, " The 12 nights are an image of 
the year."§ 

And a:nother: " The Rhibhus sleep for 12 nights and days 
in the house of the sun-god Savitar." 

Peasants of Lancashire say the weather for the year is 
foreshadowed by that of the twelve nights between Christ- 
mas and Epiphany. 

II In Northern Germany, it is said that as the weather is 
during each of these twelve days, so it will be during each 
month of the year. ** Lloyd tells us it was so thought in 
England in his time, ff Forster says, " The fact, on which 
they (these beliefs) founded their existence, was the calm 
weather, which at that time of the year, on the shores of the 
Mediterranean, usually succeeds to the blustering winds of 
the early autumn." 

* Cliristmas Kymn. 

+ King Henry VI, Act I, Scene 2. 

i Pscudosica Epideniica. Bk. Ill, ch. 10. 

§ Kelly.— Ourios-ities of Indo-European Tradition, p. 16. 

! Kulm. — Nord Deutsche Sa^en, p. 411. 

** Dial of Dales, 1590. 

+t Natural History. 


It was also believed in England, that if it blew on the 
fifth night of the twelve, there would be peril at sea for 
ships that year. 

* The Ojibways had a tradition that the thunder-bird sat 
on her eggs during fair weather, and hatched out her brood 
in the storm. 

Birds, as inhabitants of the air, and long supposed to 
commune with angels, were naturally chosen as oracles, and, 
as we shall see in another chapter, were chosen as augurs of 
future events. The extreme sensitiveness to atmospheric 
changes shown by many birds aided these ideas, and the 
real indications sometimes furnished by land and sea-birds 
of the coming storm or calm, were doubtless magnified by 
the anxious sailor. These indications, however, are not 
trustworthy, and seldom precede the changes more than a 
few hours, or sometimes even minutes. The killing of a sea- 
bird, as an albatross or a gull, would naturall)^, as a conse- 
quence of this regard for their supposed oracular character, 
be regarded as an ill omen, and as a presage of coming dis- 

Certain of the finny inhabitants of the deep were thought 
also to be able to portend storms.f Sailors yet say, when a 
shoal of porpoises or dolphins come along, diving and sport- 
ing in the waves, that a storm is impending, and that it will 
come from the direction taken by the fishes. This, also, is 
a very old superstition. Plutarch says, " When porpoises 
sport and chase one another about ships, expect then some 
stormy weather." 

It was said that when dolphins carried Arion to the shore 
the winds ceased, or as Spenser has it, — 

J "And all the raging seas forgot to roar." 

Caesar's pilot says, — 

§" In various turns the doubling dolphins play, 
And thwart, and run across, and mix their way." 

11 Bede says he had often noticed the frequent leaping of 
the porpoise, and had connected it with the rise of the wind 
and the clearing of the sky. 

** Stow tells us, "A Dolphin came forth of the sea, and 

* Brinton.— Myths of the New World. 
t Jones.— Credulities, p, U. ' 

t Marriage of the Thames and Medway. 
§ Rowe. — Lucan's Pharsalla. 
D De Rerum Natura. 
•♦ Chronicles. 


played himself in the Thames at London to the Bridge; 
foreshewing happily, the tempests that were to follow with- 
in a week after. These, when they play in rivers with hasty 
spnngings and leapings, doe signifie tempests to follow." 

* We read in an old play: " For the sky is overcast, and 
there was a porpoise even now seen at London Bridge, 
which is always the messenger of tempests, the watermen 

fAnd Shakespeare again illustrates the subject: "Nay, 
master, said I not as much when I saw the porpus, how he 
bounced and tumbled ? They say they are half-fish, half- 
flesh! a plague on them! They never come, but I look to 
be washed." 

In Ravenscroft's " Canterbury Guests," we read, — 

X " My heart begins to leap and play like a porpoise before a storm." 

§An old traveler tells us: "We saw several Porpises, 
playing with their heads above water, which I mention only 
because the seamen look upon them as forerunners of a 

II Wilsford writes: "Dolphins, in fair and calm weather, 
pursuing one another in one of their waterish pastimes, fore- 
show wind, and from that part whcTue they fetch their tricks; 
but if they play thus when the seas are high and tumbled, it 
is a sign of fair and calm weather." 

And again, " Porpoises, or sea-hogs, when observed to 
spoH and chase one another about ships, expect then some 
stormy weather." 

** " Dolphins as well as porpoises," says Forster, " when 
they come about a ship and sport and gambol on the sur- 
face of the water, portend a storm." And Pennant remarks: 
" The appearance of the Dolphin and the Porpoise are far 
from being esteemed favorable omens by the seamen, for 
their boundings, springs and frolicks in the water, are held 
to be sure signs of a gale. " So we find in Crabbe, — 

ff " The unwieldy porpoise thro' the day before, 
Had roll'd in view of boding men on shore, 
And sometimes hid, and sometimes showed his form. 
Dark as the cloud and flashing as the storm." 

* Eastward Hoe. — Chapman. Johnston and IVlarstona. 

+ Pericles, Act n, scene 1. 

$ Jones. — Credulities, p. 14. 

S Smith's Voyage to Constantinople. 

G Nature's Secrets. 

** Natural History. 

tf Poems. 


Modern sailors do not, however, give these animals so 
malevolent a character. * " Mellville saj'S, " Their appear- 
ance is generally hailed with delight by the mariner. Full 
of fine spirits, they invariably come from the breezy billows 
to windward. They are the lads that always live before the 
wind. They are ahuays accounted a lucky omen." 

This is still a doctrine of sailor belief, and modern sea- 
men would seem to have revived the ancient idea that the 
dolphin is favorable to man. Perhaps the porpoise, whose 
name, sea-hog, would seem to indicate a diabolic character, 
gave its bad reputation to its gentler companion. 

Sailors also think that it will storm when dolphins come 
into port, f Scotch fishermen call the porpoise " louper 
dog," and say when they tumble with a forward motion, a 
breeze is coming, and also assert that they swim against the 

Perhaps the mythical character of the dolphin aided in 
giving it its malevolent reputation. It is generally under- 
stood to typify the moon. \ Gubernatis says, " The lunar 
horn announces rain; thus the scythe-shaped iin of the dol- 
phin, appearing on the waves of the sea, announces a tem- 
pest to navigators, and saves them from shipwreck." All 
the animals connected in folk-lore with the moon are dia- 
bolical, a relic probably of the antipathj'of the sun-worship- 
ers to the queen of the night. 

§ Plutarch says the cuttle-fish, appearing on the surface, 
is a sign of the coming storm; that " when the polypus ^ts 
to shore and embraces the rocks, it is a sign the wind is 
rising; but the cuttle-fish jump up to show the cold and the 
trouble at the bottom of the sea." 

11 Wilsford says, " Cuttle-fish, with their many legs swim- 
ming on top of the water, and striving to be above the 
waves, do presage a storm." Also, " Fishes, both in salt 
water or fresh, are observed to sport most against a rain 
than at any other time." He further says, " Cockles and 
most shell-fish are observed against a tempest to have sand 
sticking unto their shells, as a provident nature to stay 
themselves." "Floating sea-pulmones," says Pliny, " are 
portents of stormy days to come." 

• " Moby Dick." 

tGregor. — Folk-lore of Scotland. 

$ Zoological Mytholog-j-, Vol. II. 

§ Morals. — Goodwin's Trans. 

I Brand.— Nature's Secrets, Vol. Ill, p. 185. 


* Pliny says, concerning the sea-urchin, " It is said that 
these creatures foretell the approach of storms at sea, and 
that they take up little stones with which they cover them- 
selves, and so provide a sort of ballast against their volubil- 
ity. As soon as sea-faring men observe them, they at once 
moor their ships with several anchors." 

f Forster also: " Urchins of the sea, when they thrust 
themselves in the sand, and try to cover their bodies with 
sand, foretell a storm." 

J In Icelandic belief, the fledermaus, a fabulous sea-ani- 
mal, would cause great tempests, etc., if not thrown into the 
sea before the death of its captor. 

From these animated storm-signals and weather-indicat- 
ors, the transition to inanimate forms that may furnish, by 
their presence or absence, indications or provocations of 
the tempest or the favoring breeze, is easy. >. 

Many inanimate objects were long reputed wind-raisers. 
Dead bodies on board were regarded as certain to cause 
disaster, which might ensue from the presence of portions 
of the skeleton, or the dried mummy of the corpse. 

§ We read in the travels of an early writer the following 
example of this belief: "Another miracle happened as I was 
going by sea with the bones (of four martyred friars) to 
Polumbrum, . . . when the wind totally failed us." After 
relating that prayers, etc., were said, he continues: "But as 
time passed on, and no wind came, I gave one of the bones 
to our servant, whom I ordered to go to the head of the 
ship, and cast the bone into the sea; which he had no sooner 
done, than a favorable gale sprang up, which never failed 
us until we had arrived at our destined port in safety, owing 
entirely to the merit of these holy martyrs." 

II Shakspeare illustrates this superstition, — 

" First Sailor. — Sir, your queen must overboard; the sea works high, 
the Tyind is loud, and will not lie till the ship be cleared of the dead. 

Pericles. — That's your superstition. 

First Sailor. — Pardon us, sir; with us at sea it hath been still ob- 
served, and we are strong in custom. Therefore, briefly, yield her; for 
she must overboard straight." 

** Fuller thus speaks of St. Louis: " His body was carried 

into France, there to be buried, and was most miserably 

♦Natural History. 

+ Natural History. 

t Powell and Magnusson.— Icelandic Legends. 

8 Travels of Oderic, 1318-30. 

I Pericles. Act III, scene 2. 

♦* " Holy War." Jones.-- Credulities, p. 9L 


tossed, it being observed that the sea cannot digest the cru- 
dity of a dead corpse, being a due debt to be interred where 
it dieth, and a ship cannot abide to be made a bier of." 

St. Louis, then, was not so powerful as St. Mark, who 
calmed the storm in his passage from Africa. * A quaint 
old work, "A Helpe to Memory and Discourse " (1639), asks 
whether " doth a dead body in a shippe cause the shippe to 
sail slower, and if it doe, what is thought to be the reason 
thereof?" Answer: "The shippe is as insensible of the liv- 
ing as of the dead, and as the living make it goe the faster, 
so the dead make it not goe the slower, for the dead are no 
Rhemoras to alter the course of her passage, tho' some there 
be that thinke so, and that by a kind of mournful sympa- 

f Radzovillius relates that he brought two mummies from 
Egypt, in a ship that was attacked by a fearful storm. The 
priests said masses and prayers, but asserted that they were 
haunted by two spectres. The storm not subsiding, the 
mummies were thrown overboard by the servant of Radzo- 
villius, who alone was in the secret of their presence on 

J Another old traveler tells us, "I had, among my bag- 
gage, the hand of a S5'ren or fisherman, which I threw, on 
the si}', into the sea, because the captain, seeing that we 
could not make way, asked me if I had not got some mummy 
or other in my bags, which hindered our progress, in which 
case we must return to Egypt, to carry it back." "Most of 
the Provenfals have the opinion that vessels which trans- 
port the mummies from Egj'pt have great difficult}' in arriv- 
ing safe at port; so that I feared, lest, coming to search 
among my goods, they might take the hand of the fish for 
a mummy's hand, and insult me on account of it." 

We also read, . in the chronicle of the monaster}' at 
Durham: "And so the bushop, the abbotte, and the reste, 
being weirye of travellynge, thought to have stoulne away 
and carried Sancte Cuthbert's body into Ireland, for his 
better saifftie. And being upon the sea in a shippe, by 
myricle marveillous, iij waves of water were turned into 
blood. The shippe that they were in was dreven back by 
tempeste, and by the mightie powre of God, as it should 
seeme, vpon the shore or land." 

* Jones. — Credulities, p. 93. 

■f Hierosolyroie Perigrriniitio. 

t Bouillaye le Goviz.— Travels, 1657. 


* Captain Warren, of an English merchant ship, found a 
derelict vessel, in August, 1.775, that had long been ice- 
bound, with her cabins filled with the bodies of the frozen 
crew. His own sailors, however, would not suffer him to 
search the vessel thoroughly, through superstition, and 
wished to leave her immediately. 

f Captain Basil Hall tells us: "This is a superstition 
easily accounted for amongst men whose entire lives are 
passed, as it were, on the very edge of the grave, and who 
have quite enough, as they suppose, to remind them of 
their mortality, without the actual presence of its effects." 
" The loss of a mast, the long duration of a foul wind, or 
any other inconvenience, is sure to be ascribed to the same 

X Chaplain Rockwell says that his ship was driven unex- 
pectedly to sea, with the coffined body of a man ready for 
burial on board. The man was buried at sea, but the crew 
insisted that the coffin should be cut into fragments, and 
thrown likewise into the sea, as it was deemed a bad omen 
to keep it. § Nelson was presented with a coffin made 
from the mainmast of the French ship Orient, his antago- 
nist at the Nile, and, at first kept in the cabin, but the 
superstitious feelings of his crew caused him to stow it 
away out of sight. 

II Du Chaillu says he brought a box of negro bones on 
board ship with him in Africa. The sailors found it out, 
and were very reluctant to allow him to keep them on 
board, imagining that storm, wreck, and disaster were thus 

Collin de Plancy says that French fishermen and sailors, 
but a few years since, thought the presence of a dead body 
on board ship would bring a storm. 

Canadian legends relate that the body of Father Labrosse, 
a priest who died on one of the islands of the St. Lawrence, 
protected the fisherman who conveyed it to the shore, safely 
leading his boat amid perils of storm and floating ice. 

** There is a German tradition that suicides by hanging 
raise a storm. This is doubtless from a Norse legend that 
Vikarr, a pirate chief, was wind-bound on a cruise, and cast 

♦Westminster Eeview, q. by Jones— Broad, Broad Ocean, p. 27. 

+ Voyages (1811). 

t Sketches of Foreign Travel (1847). 

8 Jones.— Credulities, 92. 

I Sly Apingi Kingdom. 

♦♦Kuhn and Schwartz.— Deutsche Sagen. 


lots to see who was to be sacrificed. The lot fell on the 
chief himself, and he attempted to evade it by hanging 
himself symbolically, but Odin caused it to be real. So 
Odin comes in the storm to claim his suicides, and he 
hanged himself for nine days on Yggdrasil, the famous 
ash-tree. * In Markland, when a storm arises, it is said that 
some one has hanged himself in the forest. 

The traditional appearance of a mermaid, or of anjr such 
apparition, was thought enough to insure a gale. 

f " The fishers have heard the water-sprite 

Whose screams forbode that wreck is nigh." 

i " 'Tis a mermaid 
Has toU'd my son to shipwreck." 

And this brings us naturally to bells. 

The ringing of bells was long thought to conjure up 
storms. Bells, on the contrary, are rung in some parts of 
Europe to calm the winds. Bacon says " the sound of bells 
will disperse lightning and thunder; in windj it has not been 
observed.'" §In the " Golden Legend " we read: " It is said 
that evil spirytes that ben in the region of th' ayre doute 
moche when they here the belles ringen, when it thondreth, 
and when grete tempeste and rages of wether happen, to 
the end that the feinds and wycked spirytes should be 
abashed and flee, and cease of the mov3mge of tempests, and 
this is the cause wh}"^ the belles ben rongen." 

II A legend related by Jones runs thus: "Several sets of 
bells belonging to the churches in Guernsey, sank on their 
passage to France, where thej' were going to help pay the 
cost of war. Fishermen of St. Ouen's Bay still say they 
ring before a storm, and when they pretend to hear them, 
will not venture out." 

** The legend of Tintagel bells in Cornwall, is that when 
a rival set of bells was being conveyed into the harbor, and 
vespers sounded, the pilot thanked God for the speedy voy- 
age, but the captain scoffed, when his ship was wrecked, and 
still the bells sound in storms, — 

' ' Still when the storm of Bottreaux' waves 
Is waking in his weedy caves, 
Those bells that sullen surges hide 
Peal their deep tones beneath the tide.'' 

• Kuhn.— Markische Sagen.' § In Jones' Credulities, p. 104. 

+ Scott.— Lay of the Last Minstrel, xxiii. I See Ch. xiv. 
i Mlddleton.— ' ' The Eoarlng Girl.' ' ** See Ch. xlv. 


Christened bells were particularly efficacious, and many 
are still found in Euroj>e, bearing inscriptions testifying to 
their power. 

* Googe says, — 

" For in these christened belles they thinke, doth lie such powere and 
As able is the tempest great, and storme to vanquish quight." 

Many seamen believe that the ships' bell will toll just as 
she is sinking, even if it be securely lashed in place. 

f A legend of Helgoland tells us that a bell came to the 
island mysteriously floating on a crucifix, during an east 
wind-storm. When an east wind was thereafter desired, it 
was only necessary to go to the church, pray before the 
crucifix, and drink out of the cup, when the wind would 
come, within three days. 

Stones were also endowed with wind-raising qualities. 
J In one of the Hebrides was a chapel dedicated to St Co- 
lumba. A blue stone in it was always moist. When fish- 
ermen wanted a fair wind, they wet this stone. A similar 
stone existed in a chapel on Fladda Chuan,§ in the Western 
Islands. Stones in a well in Gigha Island are believed to 
raise a tempest if removed. 

I CoUin de Plancy says it was believed in ancient times 
that the Getae had certain stones, Gedi, that would cause 
storms when plunged into water. This is like the stone 
" Yadah " of Polo's Mongol weather-makers. 

A certain fog-bank across a cove in Cornwall is called 
the Hooper, or Hoola, and is thought to portend a storm. 
Norfolk fishermen believe that when any one is drowned, a 
voice is heard from the water, and portends a squall. 

It was formerly believed in England that storms arose 
on the death of a great man, and did not subside until he 
was buried. 

**" Chinese sailors observe various customs for producing 
a fair wind. On leaving port, they attract the attention of 
their divinity by the loud beating of a gong, and burning of 
fire crackers and incense sticks, and casting food offerings 
in the water." 

Northmen had resort to runes, or magical verses, en- 

• Naogeorgros. 

tNobloek, 1643. 

J Jones.— CreduU ties, p. 70. 

§ Grant.— ITysteries, p. 432. 

I Dictaonnaire Infernale. 

•• Gibbons.— Boxing the Compass. 


graved on bow, stern, rudder, etc., to propitiate the gods of 
wind and waves. One of these is alluded to in one of the 

"Sea runes thou must know. 
If thou wilt have secure 
Thy floating steed. 
On the prow they must be carved. 
And on the helm blade. 
And with fire to the oar applied. 
Nor surges shall be so lowering, t 

Nor waves so dark 
But from the ocean thou safe shalt come." 

* And the ancient Edda thus speaks of them: " I know a 
song of such virtue that were I caught in a storm, I can 
hush the winds, and render the air perfectly calm." 

f Blind gives us a Shetland charm, doubtless a degraded 
tradition of some old rune, — 

" Robbin cam over da vaua (water), wi' a shU ntl 
Twabbie, Toobie, Keelikin Kallikin 
Palk trick alanks ta robin, 
Guid! sober da wind! 

X We also read of charms to raise storms or allay the 
winds, used in Greenland by the Esquimaux. 

§ The Italian traveler, Nicolo da Conto (1419-44), tells us 
how Arab mariners then controlled winds. A table was 
placed near the mainmast, with a brazier of coals on it, the 
crew assembled near by. Incantations, addressed particu- 
larly to Muthiam,king of wicked spirits, were repeated by 
the captain, while the crew stood tremblingly b}^ Sudden- 
ly, a sailor was seized with a frenzy, rushed to the table, 
seized a live coal, and swallowed it. He then said he must 
have the blood of a cock, to quench his thirst. One of these, 
kept for the purpose, was given him, and he sucked the 
blood and threw the body into the sea; then declaring to the 
crew that he was able to promise them the desired wind, 
he indicated its probable direction, and fell on the deck 

II Before Barbarj- corsairs sailed, a Marabout, or holy man, 
was visited and prayers sought, and a sheep purchased for 
sacrifice. When a storm arose, this was cut, and the entrails 

* Stemundr Edda, Haramal, p. 157. 

+ Contemporary Review, September, 18SI. 
JRink.— Tales and Traditions of the Esquimau X. 
JRenard.— Les Merveilles del' Art Naval, 2S2. Jal. Gen. 1405 & 1538. 
IP. Dan.— History of Barbary, p. 33L 


nearest the head thrown to the right to propitiate good 
spirits, and the others to the left to appease evil ones, these 
being accompanied with groans, cries, and incantations. 
Oil was also poured on the water, all the candles lighted, 
etc. If these all failed, the Christian captives in row-galleys 
were beaten, and made to pray to the Virgin and saints. 
At other times, they blew the breath to the right and left, 
lit no pipes nor performed necessary acts until the weather 
changed, repeating the sacrifices. 

Sacrifices were made universally in antiquity, to obtain 
a wind. We shall recur to the subject of sacrifices in a 
later chapter; but we may say here that Virgil's picture is 
often repeated: 

* " The shouting crew their ships with garlands bind. 
Invoke the sea-gods and invite Jhe wind." 

f Hebertstein, a sixteenth century traveler, says that 
Russian sailors in the Baltic averred that a certain deity at ' 
a rocky promontory, the " Holy Nose," must be propitiated 
in order to get a wind. They were ridiculed by others, 
but one did get on shore, and poured on the cliff a libation 
of oatmeal and butter.. 

Savages, too, sacrificed to obtain a breeze. In Lake Su- 
perior, Indians sacrificed two dogs and some tobacco to the 
spirit of the waters, for a good wind. J A traveler in the 
Indian packet " Lahore," in 1853, relates that the Indian 
crew and passengers gathered a sum of money and placed 
it at the disposal of the wind-spirit, for a good breeze. So 
a recent traveler in Japan says coins were thrown into the 
sea to obtain a breeze, and again, to propitiate the god of 

Instead of sacrifices, prayers were thought efficacious. 

An old woman named Scott, living in the Orkneys- half a 
century ago, prayed for winds for sailors' wives, 

§ " About evening, the wind arose, after much invocating, 
whistling, many prayers and curses." 

In Hassan's story, in the Arabian Nights, prayer allays a 
storm. It would perhaps be rash to say that a belief in the 
efficacy of prayer to obtain a favoring breeze, or allay a 
storm, is entirely extinct. The subject will be treated more 
fully in a subsequent chapter. 

* Dryden's ^Eneid, IV. 

+ Jones.— Credulities, 63. See Chapter XII. 

i Jones. — Credulities, 65. 

i Thombury.— The Buccaneers, p. 77, 


* A he-goat's skin suspended to the mast-head was thought 
by Hebrides Islanders to secure a good breeze. 

f On board French ships, a game of cards was, a few 
years ago, thought to provoke a storm, and we can only 
imagine this to have influenced the late naval edict against 
playing on shipboard, except in the sacred precincts of the 
cabin. Playing on a musical instrument was long thought 
provocative of a storm, and a seaman's prejudice against a 
"wind-jammer" is not yet extinct. Chinese, when desiring 
a favorable breeze, woo the winds to the din of tom-toms 
and cymbals. 

I French sailors once thought it only necessary to flog a 
boy at the mast, in order to obtain a fine breeze. 

§ For a punishment, the boy received fifteen lashes of the 
whip. They took care to turn the negro's posterior from 
the side in which they desire the breeze. A mulatto called 
the married man, rubbed his head against the tiller, the 
stern of a boy, and the head of a cuckold being the best 
means to raise the wind. 

II Italian sailors believe they can change the wind, by 
showing it their posteriors. 

** A Hamburg tradition says that if you have long had a 
contrary wind, and meet a ship bound in the opposite direc- 
tion, throw a broom before her, and you will get a fair 
wind. In Altmark, if you want a wind, you must burn an 
old broom, in ff Pomerania, cast the broom in the fire, with 
the handle pointing toward the desired wind. The winds 
are represented in popular ideas as sweeping the sky, as 
the witches' broom, which, long their favorite courser, on 
which they ride the wind, now represents it. 

Thus Van Tromp's broom, which typified his ability to 
sweep the English fleet from the channel, may, in the 
opinion of his sailors, have brought to him fair winds to aid 
him in reaching Cromwell's fleet. A northwest gale on our 
coast, that clears the sky of clouds, was called "sweeper 
of the skv," and the French name such winds " balai du 

II Dr. Kuhn says the light scudding clouds, which are 

• Grant.— Mj-steries, 433. 

+ Jones.— Broad Broad Ocean, p. 239. 

t Choice Notes, N. and Q., p. 60. 

8 B; Corbiere.— Le Negrler in M^lusine, 1884. 

I O. Jahn.— Q. in Myusine, 1884. 

*» Thorpe.— Northern Mythology, Vol. m, p. 188. 

HTenne.— V. Sag. v. Pom., 349. 

)$Marldsche Sagen. 


represented by the witches' broom, are talismans " in Ger- 
many and Lancashire." 

These, in sailor lore, are the " mare's tails," where, — 

" Mackerel skies and mare's tails 
Make tall ships carry low sails." 

* At Roscoff, in Brittany, fishermen obtained the dust 
swept out of the church De la Sainte Union, so as to obtain 
a favorable breeze by blowing it seaward; fand a Danish 
fleet on the Scotch coast is said to have been wrecked by a 
witch, who emptied a holy well, and swept out the church. 

Sardinian sailors obtained a good breeze by sweeping a 
chapel after mass, and blowing the dust from it after depart- 
ing ships. 

Old sailors have not yet forgotten to scratch the mast for 
a breeze, — some say the foremast, others the-mizzen; others 
say, stick a knife in the ijiizzen-mast, pointing the handle in 
the desired quarter. J" Scratch the foremast with a nail; 
you will get a good breeze." 

Frazer says water from a well in West Scotland was scat- 
tered in the air, with invocations, to raise a storm, the cover 
being put on the well to prevent hurricanes from ensuing. 

Benjamin of Tudela says the planet Orion caused storms 
in the China Seas, and wrecked junks. 

A Russian story declares that a storm arose because a 
captain put to sea without paying a debt, contracted on a 
relic of the cross. He finally calmed it by throwing over- 
board a chest with the money, which, we are assured, floated 
safely to the claimant. 

§ In a Norman tale, the violation of an oath causes a 
storm. A young man promised his mother not to go to 
sea, but afterwards shipped in a man-of-war. A storm arose, 
destroying all on board. 

I In a Russian tale, a sin planned causes a storm, which 
is only allayed by repentance and prayer.** 

ff So the Fuegian taken on board ship by Fitzroy thought 
any wrong thing done or said would provoke a storm. 

A Fiji mode of getting a wind, was to wish aloud for it, 
after taking a drink. 

* Grant.— Mysteries. 396. 

+ Jones.— Credulities, 70. 

t Kuhn and Schwai-tz. — N. Deutsche Sagen, 454. 

§ Schmidt — Seenaan's Sa^en und Schiffer Jliirchen. 

I Afanasiefl-In Ralston— Russian Folk-tales, p. 43. 

** See also Froude. — Short Studies, 158. 

tt Fitzroy.— Voyage, p. 183. 


* Natives of Vancouver's Island, in passing a certain 
mountain, would not name it, lest their boats be wrecked. 

f lo cut the hair and nails during a calm was formerly 
'.hought to provoke a gale. This belief is very old. Hesiod 
says the nails must not be pared before the gods. Petro- 
nius Arbiter says, however, that hair and nails should only 
be cut in a storm. J He also says that forty blows were 
thought necessary to remove the evil effects of cutting off 
the hair and beard, when done at night by two fugitives in 
a Roman ship, who wished to escape detection. 

§ Propertius says it is a bad omen to cut them at sea. 
Juvenal says that, as they are only given as a final offering 
to the gods, it will offend them to yield up such offerings 
at other times. Kirchman says, to dream of cutting off the 
hair, portended shipwreck to the ancient Roman. 

Ij In Scotland, it was formerly said that if you combed 
your hair by candlelight or at night at all, your friends at 
sea would be lost. Many superstitions are recorded in folk- 
lore legends concerning the nails 

** But none of these means were thought so effectual as 
whistling — a superstition not yet extinct, that 

"Whistles rash bid tempests roar." 

f f Longfellow makes the Padrone in the " Golden Le- 
gend" saj% — 

" Only a little while ago 
I was whistling to Saint Antonio 
For a capful of wind to fill our sail, 
And instead of a breeze he has sent a gale.'' 

U Basil Hall, speaking of the sailors during a calm, says 
" One might have thought that the ship was planted in ,'. 
grove of trees, in the height of springtime, so numerous 
were the whistlers. This practice of whistling for a wind 
is one of our nautical superstitions, which, however ground- 
less and absurd, fastens insensibly on the strongest-minded 
sailors at such times." 

§§Dr. Pegge, writing in 1763, says: "Our sailors, I am 

* Sproat, — Farrar. 

+Jal. Diet. Nautique.— Cheveux. 

t Fn Jal. — Glossaire Nautique. 

SBrand.— in, 221. 

II Grcgor. — Folk-lore of Scotland. 

*' Hailirr. — Popular Antiqmties of Great Britain. 

•H Part VI. 

itVo.vagcs, 1811. 

5§ Gent. JIag., q. by Jones.— Broad, Broad Ocean, p. 239. 


told, at this very day (I mean the vulgar sort), have a 
strange opinion of the devil's power and agency in stirring 
up winds, and that is the reason they so seldom whistle on 
shipboard, esteeming it to be a mockery, and consequently 
an enraging of the devil." *Dr. Andrews, an i8th century 
writer, says: "Superstition and profaneness, those extremes 
of human conduct, are often found united in the sailor, and 
the man who dreads the stormy effect of drowning a cat, or 
ot whistling a country dance, while he leans over the gun- 
wale, will often be most profane." 

I-n the "Ancient Mariner," the phantom woman, after 
ruining the souls of the crew, whistles thrice, and 

" Off shot the spectre bark." 

Yorkshire fisftermen do not like whistling at sea; they 
say it brings both bad winds and poor luck. Scarbro' fish- 
ermen allow no whistling in their boats, f Fishermen of 
St. Ives do not like whistling at night. Yoi; may whistle 
for a breeze, but do not do so in a storm. 

I Holcroft says, during his voyage on the English coast: 
" I believe it was here I first remarked one of those many 
superstitious habits of seamen — that of whistling for the 
wind. I find it is common to them all, from the captain to 
the cabin boy. 

Irish fishermen think whistling bad at sea. They say 
you should not even whistle for a wind in a dangerous 
place, for fear of a storm. A man traveling in a boat on 
the Irish coast some years since, came near getting a severe 
beating for whistling. 

§ Filey boatmen say: "We only whistle while the wind 
is asleep, and then the breeze comes," and they do not 
allow passengers to whistle in their boats. 

In Swedish belief, whistling at sea brings storms and 
whirlwinds on shore. French sailors have similar beliefs, 
and II Germans say a storm comes, when you whistle at 
sea; a fresh breeze only, if you hug the mast at the same 

In a Greenland story, a man raises a storm by blowing a 
whistle to the four points of the horizon, thus invoking the 
four winds. 

♦Brand.— Antiquities, Vol. Ill, p. 239. 

+ BottreU. 

t Memoirs, Vol. I. p. 281. 

§ Jones. — Credulities. 

t Ijebrecht, Volkslrunde, 332. 


Williams says Fijian fishermen, when not whistling for a 
wind, entice it with playful words. 

* "Whistling in bad weather makes it worse, for it 
attracts wind. Whistle a lively tune in good weather, and, 
to insure a wind, say flattering words, such as, 'Come, 
brother wind,' 'Come, old boy.'" "Some old sailors can 
even get a wind by saying, ' Come, come, arouse thee, old 
boy! ' but they must flatter it well." 

f Bishop Heber also tells us, of the boatmen in the Ganges: 
"I was amused to find that these boatmen have the same 
fancies with our English sailors, about whistling for the 

J A Yorkshire fisherman forbade a 3'oung lady from 
entering his boat, saying, " Not that j^oung lady; she whis- 

§In "Notes and Queries" is an anecdote of a Catholic, 
who said to ra lady, "Don't whistle, ma'am; every time a 
woman whistles the Virgin's heart bleeds." 

This notion is closely connected with the adage, — 

I "A whistling girl and a crowing hen 
Will surely come to a bad end." 

The possession of a pilot's thumb by witches and others 
would seem to indicate their power of controlling storms, as 
we have seen by the witches in "Macbeth." 

Eric's thumb, stolen by pirates, raised such a breeze that 
they were glad to return it. 

** In China, a southerly (or favorable) breeze can be ob- 
tained by holding a cap high up against the wind; and the 
lives of a boat's crew would be endangered by repeating 
the word feng, or wind. 

So Esthonians, to get a favorable breeze, hang up a hat, 
turned in the direction a wind is desired, and whistle in 
that direction also, f f A snake's skin hung up in the same 
manner was thought to procure a breeze. 

JJ Kamtchatdales would not cast sand out of their huts, 
nor sharpen an axe or knife while on a journey, for fear of 
raising a storm. 

* Tenne.— Volkeaagen aus Pommern. 
+ Journey Thro' India, p 423. 

$ Henderson. — Folk-lore of Northern Counties of England (44). 

! August 2, 1879. 

IChoice Notes, Notes and Queries, p. 13. 

** Dennys. — Folk-lore of China. 

++G-rinini.— Teutonic JJrthology 

14 Ty lor .—Primitive Culture. 


A colonial writer says that certain passengers in a ship, 
incited' by a sermon by Cotton Mather against a petition to 
the crown, firmly believed that a storm overtook the ship 
carrying the document, and demanded that it be thrown 

In Icelandic belief, says Armanson, to obtain a favorable 
breeze, it is only necessary to pull out your shirt, pick the 
insects off it, and put them on the foresail. We may imag- 
ine this remedy would not, in some ships, want for material 
for its application. 

In Sweden, a favorable wind is obtained by fastening 
a spoon made out of stolen wood to the prow of the 
ship. * 

On French vessels, in the Newfoundland fisheries, 
when the wind dies out, the men assemble on deck, and 
call out together the name of the desired wind — to call it 

AubinT[ says a number of rounds fired from ship's 
guns during a battle cause the wind to fall, but many sea- 
men believe that this will bring on a blow. 

In J Brittany, sailors blow on the mainsail to get a 
breeze. French sailors used to fire a gunshot into the 
clouds, and call ■ upon the wind they wished, and blas- 
pheme by saying "Little Peter, send us a breeze." It 
was also said among whalers that it was only necessary to 
speak of light-mannered women on board ship to cause a 
breeze. || 

A Caroline Islander embarked on Kotzebue's ship 
believed he could control the winds by certain magic 
songs. He was astonished to find them of no avail in the 
tropics. " In the islands whence I come," said he, " the 
wind cannot last longer than a song."* 

" Our pilots had recourse to a thousand superstitions 
to obtain a favorable wind; sometimes they cast a small 
ship filled with rice into the sea, amid cries of the crew; 
sometimes a small flask of perfume was broken over the 
tack; sometimes the dream of a slave or sailor caused 
them to cast water on the masts, to wash the ship, or to 
run the figure of a horse about the deck."-*- This is said 
of Mahometan sailors in Malasian waters. 

•Hildebrandson, Samlmg at bemerkelee Dager. 
tS^billot, Groyances et Superstitions de la Mer, 11-247. 
^[Dictionairede Marine, 
tli. F. Starve, in S^illot. Croyances. 236. 



" Thus on life's lonely sea, 
Heareth the marinere 
Voices sad, from far and near. 
Ever singing, full of fear, 
Ever singing, drearfully." 

" The Mermaid on the roclcs she sat 

With glass and comb in hand, 
" Clear off, ye livery lads! ' she said, 
" ' Ye be not far from land.'" 

/. R. Lowell. 

Old Ballad. 

HE powerful deities and malig- 
nant demons described in a 
former chapter were not deemed 
the only inhabitants of the 
deep. In the traditions of 
many peoples, there existed be- 
low the waves races of mortals, some 
resembling the -human dwellers on 
earth, others possessing varied forms 
and attributes. In the sea also abode 
huge giants, diminutive dwarfs, cun- 
ning fairies and wonderful goblins 
— beings analogous to those believed 
formerl}' to exist on land, and form- 
ing a link between the powerful dei- 
the ordinary inhabitants of the sea 

ties and 

* Norse tradition says that when giants and 
trolls were driven from the earth by Christian priests, they 
took refuge in the sea, and are seen by mariners on distant 

Such an one is described in the old Norse " Book of 
Kings." f " It is tall and bulk)', and stands right up out of 

* Thorpe.— Noithern Mythology. 
+ In Jones' 


the water. From the shoulder upward, it is like a man, 
while on the brows there is, as it were, a pointed helmet. 
It has no arms, and from the shoulders down it seems light 
and more slender. Nobody has ever been able to see 
whether its extremities end in a tail like that of a fish, or 
only in a point." This monster was called Hafstramb. " Ita 
color was ice-blue color. Nor could any one discern 
whether it had scales or a skin like a man. When the mon- 
ster appeared, the sailors knew it to be the presage of a 
storm. If it looked at a ship and then dived, a loss of life 
was certain, but if it looked away and then dived, people 
had a good hope that although they might encounter heavy 
storms, their lives would be saved." 

* According to the Eddas, Hymir, a fabled giant, boiled 
his kettle when the storms raged. His name is from humr, 
the sea, and is connected with our word humid. 

In the ancient Finnish Kalevala, a dwarf arises from the 
sea, and becomes a giant as high as the clouds. 

These are like the giants (Jinns) in the Arabian nights, 
which are imprisoned in bottles, and which, says Lane,f 
were called in Arab-lore El GJiowasah, " divers in the sea." 

Other giants, although not always abiding in the sea, 
were fabled to have more or less power therein. 

I Ligur is a giant fabled in Helgoland as having sepa- 
rated the island from the mainland. Many stones strewn 
about the coast were dropped by him. 

Walcheren, a Dutch giant, when pirates stole his flocks, 
waded out into the sea, sank the ships with his little finger, 
and recovered his sheep. 

§ A giant formerly lived in a cave near Portreath, Eng- 
land, who waded out and seized boats, dragging them in,v 
and who seized drowning people sucked in by currents. 

II More wonderful stories are told of Gargantua, whose 
deeds are renowned on many parts of the French coast. 
Many huge rocks and boulders on the coast, as at St. Just, 
St. Jacob, Plevenen, etc., were fabled to have been placed 
there by him. Others are said to be his tooth, his cradle, 
his bed, or the tombs of his limbs. Legends of his ex- 
ploits are numerous. He drank of the sea, stepped over 
to Great Britain, and at numerous times swallowed ships, 

♦ Thorite.— Northern Mythology. 
+ Notes to Arabian Nights. 

t Grimm.— Teut. Mythology, Vol. II, p. 536. 

i Bottrell.— Traditions of West Cornwall. 

iSebillot.— Gargantua dans les Traditions Populatres, 1883. 


and even fleets. In some of these tales ships are blown 
up in his capacious stomach, and in others, whole fleets 
continue their combats, after he has swallowed them. An 
English fleet, thus absorbed, so disagreed with his gallic 
taste that he went in disgust to India, and threw them up. 

* Mausthorpe, a famous Indian giant, was equally cele- 
brated about Vineyard Sound. The rocks at Seaconnet are 
the remains of his wife, whom he threw into the sea there. 
He turned his children into fishes, and emptying out his 
pipe one day, formed Nantucket out of its ashes. 

Dwarfs also went to sea. f St. Brandan met a dwarf a 
thumb long, floating in a bowl, during his wonderful voy- 
age. I El Masudi tells us of the China Sea: " When a great 
storm comes on, black figures arise from the waters, about 
four or five spans long, and they look like little Abyssinians. 
They mount in the vessels; but, however numerous, they do 
no harm. When sailors observe them, they are sure that a 
storm is near, for their appearance is a certain sign of a 

Fairies figure' in many tales of the sea and of seamen. 
Fishermen in the Tweed believe they affect their fishing. 
Nets are salted, and salt thrown into the water to blind the 
sea-fairies. Perthshire seamen believe in them. 

§ A Cornish tale says a fisherman found "piskies" play- 
ing, and watched them, but they detected him, and he was 
near being taken and destroyed. Another tale, that of John 
Taprail, is that he was awakened by a voice telling him 
that his boat, moored alongside another, was in danger. 
He arose to see to it, but found that a trick had been played 
on him, and his boat was all right. While on his way back 
he found a group of piskies distributing monej' in their 
hats. Slyly introducing his own, he obtained a share, was 
discovered, and barely had time to reach home, leaving the 
tails of his coat in the hands of the fairies. 

According to the Irish Bardic legends, the King of Ulster 
was almost carried awaj- by sea-fairies. 

II Among Welsh fairies are the Gwragedd Annwn, or 
fairies of lakes and streams. These are not mermaids, nor 
are they sea-maidens. Some are said to inhabit Crumlyn 
Lake, and live in a fabled submerged town. They are said 

' Drake.— Leffends and Folk-lore of New England, p. 444. 
i Grimm.— Teut. Mj'tholOEy, Vol. II, p. -Sol. 

* Golden Jlcadoivs. ch. SVl. 
g Jones.— Credulities, p. 30. 

ISlkea.— British Goblins and Welsh Folk-lore, 35. 


to be descendants of villagers condemned to sink below the 
waters for reviling St. Patrick on one of his visits. * Other 
localities are haunted by these subaqueous fairies, and a 
young farmer obtained one of them, who was in the habit 
of rowing about in a magic boat with golden oars, by drop- 
ing bread and cheese in the water. She left him on his 
striking her three times. Another lake-bride disappears 
when struck with iron. In another locality, lake-fairies 
inhabit beautiful gardens under the water. 

In the Hebrides, sea-beans are supposed by some to be 
fairies' eggs. 

In Holland it is said that elves are in the bubbles, seen on 
the surface of water, or that they will use eggshells thrown 
into the water, for boats. 

f A French (Breton) story is told of a fairy who presented 
a sailor a rod that saved him from shipwreck, gave him a 
good breeze, and brought him a fortune. 

J Dieppe fishermen say they hold an annual bazaar on 
the cliffs, and attempt to decoy men there. If one went, 
and listened to their music, he would be drowned from the 

Breton stories are told of fairies who dwell in the Houles, 
or grottoes in the cliffs. A fisherman once saw them rub 
their eyes with a salve, and then take the shape of mortals. 
Obtaining the ointment, he used it, and was thereafter able 
to distinguish these people, even when, in the shape of fish, 
they were robbing the nets. 

The fairies sometimes married men. They have flocks 
and herds, sometimes obtaining those of mortals by theft. 
They are generally beneficent, bringing riches in return tor 
favors, and possess supernatural powers. They are gener- 
ally beautiful, but are invisible by day, except to those 
whose eyes are anointed with the magic salve. Some are 
clothed like human beings, others covered with barnacles or 
shells. In some tales, they are endowed with the powers of 
Circe, metamorphosing men into animals. 

It was formerly said, in He et Vilaine, that a fairy inhab- 
ited a certain grotto, and was seen sailing on the river in a 
nautilus shell, accompanied by other fairies. 

In Polynesian mythology, fairies taught them how to net 
fish, and make reels. 

' Sikes.— British Goblins and Welsh Folk-lore, 63. 
+Sebillot. — C!ontes des Paysauset des Pechems. 
X S6tiillot. — Coutes Pop. de la Haute Bretagne. 


We also find at sea one of these familiar mischievous 
goblins, such as in German lore, under the name of Koboid, 
annoy the housewife and hostler. He is a beneficent demon, 
taking his turn at the capstan and grog-tub. *To French 
sailors, under the name of Gobelin, he is well known, and 
Norwegian sailors believe in his existence. He singes their 
hair in sleep, raises the anchor in a calm, tears carelessly- 
furled sails, knots ropes, etc. 

fin the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, he was called 
Kobalos, in Germany. Now he is known as Klabauter- 
mann_, or Klabautermannchen, as he is a small man, with 
large, fiery red head, and green teeth. He is dressed in 
yellow breeches, horseman's boots, and a steeple-crowned 
hat. He is a beneficent visitor, and is on good terms with 
the crew, as long as he is treated well, often assisting in 
their tasks. 

These characteristics are aptly illustrated in the following 

t" About Klaboterman 

That Koboid of the sea, a sprite 

Invisible to mortal sight, 

Who o'er the rigging ran; 

Sometime he hammered in the hold. 

Sometimes upon the mast; 

Sometimes abeam, sometimes abaft. 

Or at the bows, he sang and laughed. 

He helped the sailors at their work. 

And toil'd with jovial din, 

He helped them stow the casks and bales. 

And heave the anchor in; 

But woe unto the lazy louts. 

The idlers of the crew. 

Them to torment was his delight. 

And worry them by day and night, 

And pinch them black and blue. 

And woe to him whose mortal eyes 

Klaboterman beheld, 

It is a certain sign of death!" 

§ In North Germany, it is said that his favor must be care- 
fully courted. His favorite position is on the capstan, and 
he will occasionally take a glass of wine with the Captain, 
whose interests require him to be on favorable terms with 
this sprite. He is given food, but must not be offered old 

* Jal.— Glossaire Nautique, " Gobelin." 
+ Grimm.— Teut. Mythology. 500. 

* Longfellow.— Tales of a Wayside Irm- 
SThorje.- NortbemMythologj. Vol. I. 


clothing. * Schmidt says Plymouth fishermen aver a belief 
in him, and say he was not always visible until the time of 
danger. Should a fisherman lose his luck, he saw Klabau- 
terman go over the bows. On account of the noise he 
sometimes raised on board, he was called Kliitermann (clat- 

f In French accounts of him, he originally appeared 
on board of a ship in the Somme. He is there called 

j Brewer says he is seen sitting on the bowsprit of 
the spectre ship, dressed in yellow, and smoking a short 

In many places water-spirits assumed the shape of a 
horse, of a cow, or a bull. §" Mythic water-horses, water- 
bulls, or cows are to be found in the religious systems of 
many nations of old. And they still haunt the imagination 
of living men, in the shape of Scotch water-kelpies, or of 
dapple-gray stallions and brown steers, that still rise from 
some German lake." 

In Iceland, Hnickur appears thus, but with hoofs turned 
backward. He tempts people to mount him, and is then 
off. II He was also called Vatua-hestur, Nennir and Kum- 
ber. Gray was the usual color seen, and sometimes other 
shapes were assumed. One came through the ice, and had 
eight feet and ten heads. When the ice splits in the win- 
ter, it is said to be the sea-horse coming up. 

He somtimes induces persons, especially young girls, to 
mount his back, when he rushes into the water. He can be 
caught and tamed, and the horses reared from him are 
stronger than others, but more mischievous. When tamed, 
his bridle must not be taken off, or he will rush into the 
river. **Arnanson tells a story of a water-horse who was 
caught and bridled by a young girl. Just as she was about 
to mount him she said, "I feel afraid; I'm half inclined not 
to mount him." He rushed forthwith into the water, not 
liking to be called Nennir, or "I'm not inclined," nor can 
he bear to be called by the Devil's name. 

In the Orkneys, the water-sprite appears as a handsome 
little horse, with his mane covered with weeds; and one is 

* Seeman's Sagen und Schifler JIarchen. 

+ Jal. — Glossaire Nautique. " Gobelin." 

t Readers' Hand Book. Klaboterman. 

S Blind. — Contemporary Eeview, August, 1881. 

I Blind.— C!ontemporary Bevlew, August, 188L 

♦» Icelandic Legends. 


described in Bevis's " Orkney." In Shetland, the handsome 
httle horse is named Shoopiltree or Shoopultie. He aided 
Graham of Morphil to build his castle. 
When overloaded he said, — 

* " Sair back and sair banes 

Duven the Laird o' Morphil's stanes. 
The Laird o' Morphil '11 never thrive 
So long's the kelpy is alive." 

f Blind says an instance of a water-horse, yoked and 
worked during the day, is reported in the Landnama bok. 

In Shetland, says Blind, he is also called Njuggle, Nyogle 
Neogle, or Niagle, all words of the same sort as Nockel (Ger.), 
and derived from Nick, chief water demon. He is defined as 
" a horse, somewhat akin to the water kelpie." But in popu- 
lar accounts, he differs from a horse in having a tail like a 
wheel. He is generally mischievous, stopping mills, etc. 
Stories are told in Shetland lore, of men mounting these 
water-horses, who were nearly being carried into the sea, 
only escaping by killing the horse. 

I In Norway, w-hen a thunder storm is brewing, the 
water-sprite comes in the shape of a horse. 

§ Numerous tales are told of the Scotch kelpie, who was 
usually black. He would, if possible, decoy travelers to 
mount him, then rush into the water with them. He could 
be caught bj' slipping over his head a bridle on which the 
sign of the cross had been made, and then would work. A 
horseman saw one, attended by an old man. A blacksmith 
killed one with, hot irons, by thrusting them in his side, 
when he became a heap of starch. 

Burns says, — 

I "When thowes dissolve the snawy hoord, 
An' float the ginglin' icy-boord, 
Then waier-kelpies haunt the foord." 

Nearly every Scottish lake has its water-horse. ** Gregor 
tells a stor}- of a Scotchman who caught a kelpie, mounted 
his back, and nearly lost his life thereb)-, the water-horse 
rushing at once toward the lake. His rider escaped by 

•Scotch and Irish Legendary Ballads. 

+ Oontemponiry Eeriew-, August, 188L 

t Faye — Norsk Sagen. p. 55. 

§ Gregor.— Folt-lore of Scotland. 


*• Folk-lore of Scotland. 


, Striking the bridle from his head. * Another writer says of 
the water-sprite: "Sometimes it is described as wholly or 
partly human, as merman or mermaid, but more commonly 
the shape assigned to it, is that of a horse or a bull. The 
sounds of the kelpie, when heard during a storm, whether 
wild neighing, or hoarse bellowing, is reckoned a sure 
presage of misfortune." 

Every lake in Perthshire has its kelpie, swelling the 
torrent to drown the traveler, and decoying women and 
children into the water. 

f In Irish legend, water-horses are called Phookie and 
Aughisky, and are said to come up out of "the lakes to 
graze; but some are carnivorous, one in Lough Mask de- 
stroying cattle when he came out. Another, that had been 
tamed, ran into the lake when he saw the water. Another 
in Loch Corub had a serpent's body, with a horse's head. 

It is usually said of these water-horses, that their hoofs 
turn backward. Blind has pointed, out that the wheel- 
shaped tail indicates the sun, or that here in these legends 
we have another phase of sun-worship, closely connected . 
with water worship in many particulars. Bryant further 
argues that their backward-turned hoofs mean the crab, or 
the sun in the southern or Tartaric constellation; hence the 
water-horse is malicious and diabolic. His name, derived 
from Nick, indicates this character. 

In the Isle of Man, we find the water-horse called Glash- 
lan, Glashan, or Enach-I-Kibh, fairy stallion 

I In North Germany, Jagow is the water-horse, who, in a 
story, came out of the water, harnessed himself to a harrow, 
and worried the other horses nearly to death. It is gener- 
ally said there that the water-sprites possess herds of cattle. 

Near New Schlemnin, in Mecklenburg, is a lake called 
the Devil's lake, whence issue on St. John's day the cries of 
a man. He is a peasant, who called on the devil, when his 
horses were exhausted in traveling. A black horse came 
out of the lake, jumped to the harrow, and assisted in the 
task, but when the peasant mounted him, he rushed at once 
into the lake. 

§ The nixies that dwell in the waves are, in the Illyrtan 
tales, of surpassing beauty. Often it happens that a youth 

* I/t.-Col. Leslio.— Early Eaces of Scotland and Their Monjiments. 

+ Blind.— Scottish and Shetland Water Tales, Cont. Eevlew, August, 1882. 

tKuhn.— Nord Deutsche Siigsn. 

SPTof. Grlesdorier.— Letter to H. Blind., Cont. Eeview, August, 1881. 


inspires them with love, and then they change themselves 
into water-horses, in order to carry him on their backs into 
their crystal realm. 

* Stories of sea-horses are found in eastern lore. King 
Mihraj's mares are visited by one producing a superior 
breed. El Kazwini says sea-horses are larger than those of 
the land, have cloven hoofs, and smaller mane and tail. 
Their colts are spotted, he says. 

In the historical legends of the Indian Archipelago, 
Parar-al-Bahrri is a sea-horse who carries the hero over the 

The horse is connected with the sea in many legends, 
f Neptune created the horse, and Centaur, sprang from the 
sea. Perseus' horse, Pegasus, is supposed by many to have 
been a ship. Caxton, in the " Book of Troy," and Boc- 
caccio, in the "Genealogia Deorum," say the same. J So 
Sh'akspeare likens a ship to Perseus' horse. The mother of 
Dyonisius was Hippos. Many heroes travel over the waves 
on the horse. Odin's horse Sleipnir thus conveyed his 
master, and various folk-lore tales make the hero imitate 
him. The ship is usually, in the Eddas, likened to a horse, 
and two of a famous Welsh triad of vessels were the black 
horse of the seas, and the horned horse. Sailors evidently 
recognized the analogies between the steed of the land and 
the courser of the seas, since we find nearly everj' part of 
the horse's anatomy, and much of his harness and fittings 
represented in nautical nomenclature. So with the cow. 
In Aryan mythology, cows represent clouds, and clouds 
were, as we shall see, widely represented as ships. " Die 
Bunte Kuh " was a famous German flag-ship in the middle 
ages. Certain marine mammals, as the walrus, sea-lion, 
etc., resembling cattle and horses in form, would aid the 
legend in its progress. 

Water-cattle are also found in the folk-lore of many 
people. The Merovignan kings of France traced their 
descent from a water-bull, the direct ancestor of Merovasus. 

A shepherd, in a French story of the eleventh century, 
finds beautiful herds of cattle at the bottom of the sea, and 
drives them out. 

An old Icelandic natural history reports that the bellow- 
ing of sea-cows and bulls makes people mad. 

*Lane. — Arabian Nights. 

■t Cox,— Aryan Mythology, U, 203. 

t Trollus and Cn^ida, Act I, eoene 8. 


* Breton tales of the flocks and herds of the sea-fairies 
are numerous. 

fin Scotch belief, water-bulls are friendly, and are inim- 
ical to the diabolic water-horses. In an old tale, a water- 
calf, who has grown into a young bull on shore, attacks a 
water-bull who has deluded a young girl into his power by 
assuming the shape of a young man, and kills him. J There 
are many Welsh tales of water-cattle, issuing from the 
lakes, etc. 

KafBrs say the sea-people have cattle beneath the waves. 

Clouds reflected in the waves were often thought to be 
sheep and cattle. So in the Norse story, " Big Peter and 
Little Peter," § in the Gaelic tale, " The Three Widows," 
and in the German legend of the "Little Farmer." These 
are the Cattle of Helios, and Herds of Neptune; and such 
fancies doubtless aided in spreading these myths of water- 
horses and cattle. 

But the water-sprites usually appeared in human form. 

From the naiads, nereids, and nixies sprang a crowd of 
fabulous inhabitants of the ocean, lake, river, and stream. 

We have seen that the ocean, the streams and lakes, and 
even the fountains were fabled, in ancient Greece, to be 
peopled by these semi-deities — the Oceanids, the Nereids, 
the Naiads, and the Nymphs. |{ These, with the sirens, the 
harpies, the centaurs, and other demi-gods and demons, 
were the undoubted ancestors of the host of forms, angelic 
and demoniac, that have been fabled to haunt the streams 
of the ocean and the air. The ancestry of many of these 
have been traced back to older Aryan days, and the nymphs 
found to be none other than the Apsaras, the centaurs but 
the Gaudharvas, and the harpies, or sirens, representatives 
of the Maruts. But the effects of the Greek conceptions of 
these inhabitants of sea and air were more marked than 
of the older primitive ideas. 

** As Tylor says; " Through the ages of the classic world 
the river-gods and the water-nyrnphs held their places, till, 
within the bounds of Christendom, they came to be classed 
with ideal beings like them in the mythology of the North- 
ern nations, the kindly sprites to whom offerings were given 

* Sdbillot.— Litt. Orale de Haute Bretagne. 
+ Gregor.— Folk-lore of Scotland. 

tSikes.— British Goblins and Welsh Folk-lore, p. 36. 
§ Dasent. — Noi-se Tales. Grimm Campbell. 
H Kelly.— Curiosities of Indo-European Folk-lore. p. 2t. 
=• Primitive Culture. II, 213. 


at springs and lakes, and the treacherous nixies who entice 
men to a watery death." 

In spite of the opposition to water worship, made by the 
Christian priests, these beliefs prevailed, just as the belief 
in the more powerful sea-divinities endured, so that all the 
priests could do, was to degrade or maintain in their de- 
graded pKDsition, the nymphs of the waves and the spirits of 
the deep. 

The Sirens, at first bird-shaped, were afterwards, as we 
have seen, imagined beautiful maidens.* There finally grew 
up in mediaeval conception, two classes of sea-beings. The 
first, the water-sprite, appeared in human shape, but was 
endowed with the facult}' of assuming other forms at will. 
The second, the mermaid, had always the fish tail which 
ancient legends gave to many goddesses and water-beings. 

Water-sprites were usually endowed with wisdom, often 
brought gifts or good luck, but were sometimes malicious, 
and even diabolic. All these qualities were inherited from 
their ancestors. Nick was diabolic, the nj'mphs often bene- 
fited mankind, and the Sirens were malicious and hurtful. 

f According to the Eddas, Urda, who knew the past, 
Verande, skilled in present affairs, and Skulda, who proph- 
esied the future, were all water-nymphs. Egeria of the 
fountain, who taught wisdom to Numa, had her represent- 
atives and followers in nearly everj' land. 

Water-sprites appear in all countries, in ocean lake, river 
and fountain. 

I Wilkina, the Viking, found one in a forest, and carried 
her away. She afterwards appeared, climbing upon the 
poop of his ship at sea, and stopped it, by putting the helm 
hard over. 

The sagas have other stories of water-sprites, and one 

' Cold water to the eyes. 
Flesh raw to the teeth, 
A shroud to the dead, 
Flit me back to the sea 
Henceforward never 
Men in ships sailing. 
Draw me to dr>- land 
From the depths of the sea.'' 

The Drowning-Stol; a rock on the Norwegian coast, is 

'Chapter I. 

+ Thorpe. —Northern MTtholog-v, Vol. IT, p. 13. 

tWUkma Saga. 


fabled to have been the seat of a " Queen of the Sea," who 
used to sit there, combing her locks, and bringing luck to 

* In Norwegian story the Grim, or Fossegrim, is a myste- 
rious water-fairy, a musical genius, who plays to every one, 
and requires a white kid every Thursday. In Norway, also, 
was the Roretrold, or Rorevand, sometimes appearing as a 
horse, at others as a human water-sprite, f When people 
drown at sea, a water-sprite appears, in the shape of a 
headless old man. 

J The Swedish Stromkarl sits under bridges, playing 
wonderful melodies on the violin, which cause everybody 
hearing them to dance. He will teach his tunes to anyone, 
for a consideration. 

He greatly desires salvation, an idea emanating undoubt- 
edly from the priests. 

§The "Lady of the Boundless Sea" figures in an old 
Norse fairy tale, bringing benefits with her. 

In Icelandic legend, water-sprites make holes in the ice, 
called elf-holes. |Arnanson tells an Icelandic story of a 
fisherman, who is always granted good luck by a " sea-troll.'- 
whom he has benefited, so long as he waited to set out on 
his day's journey, until the troll had passed his hut. Other 
legends say these elves go out fishing, and their boats are 

** The Danish water-sprite has a long beard, green hat, 
green teeth, shaggy hair, and yellow curls and cap. He was 
often malicious. 

f f ' ' They launched the ship into the deep, 
The sea growled like a bear, 
The White Goose to the bottom sank. 
Some trold was surely there," 

says an old ballad. In another, — 

" The good King of Loffer had launched his ship. 
And sail'd the billowy main, 
There came a trold and his daughter seiz'd. 
And bitter his grief and pain. " 

In Holland, it is believed that water-sprites or elves float 

* Thorpe.— Northern Mythology, Vol. II, p. 23. 
+ Grimm.— Teutonic Mythology, Vol. I, p. 491. 
tAfzelius.— Swedish Folk-Tales. 

§ Dasent.— Popular Tales from the Norse. 
I Icelandic Legends. 

** Grimm.— Teutonic Mythology, Vol. 1, p. 49L 
+t"Kosmer Hafmand."— Northern Ballaos. 


in bubbles, or in egg-shells that are thoughtlessly thrown 
into the water. 

*A Dutch legend of 1305, reports that a knight who 
found a water-sprite, but afterwards killed it, died himself 
in consequence. 

f In Germany, a crowd of various water-sprites is found. 
Frau Hulde, or Holde, is the spirit of fountains, and when 
the sun shines, she is combing her hair and when it snows, 
she is making her bed. She is frequently seen bathing at 
noon. She is thought to take all drowned persons. During 
the twelve days near Christmas, she joins the Wild Hunt 
with Odin and his gang. At Ilsensten, Use is seen often in 
long white robe and black hat, and she is also called Jung- 
fern (maiden). In many places these water-sprites inhabited 
lakes, and raised storms, if stones were thrown in. These 
water-sprites inhabit every lake, river and pond in Germany, 
and innumerable stories are told of them. Some bring fort- 
une, others ill luck. Many come on shore to dance with 
the peasants, and are known by the wet hem of their gar- 
ments. Others are bloodthirstj' and covetous. Should a 
water-maiden dally too long with the shore mortals, she is 
sure to suffer death on her return, and the waves appear 
red, above her abode. In Markland, children are told that 
the water-man will drag them in. 

A party of fishermen found a lump of ice in the sea, and 
gave it to St. Theobald, their bishop, to cool his gout}' feet. 
He heard a voice inside, and succeeded, by saying thirty 
masses, in saving and liberating the sprite within. 

J Bohemian fishermen believe in a water-sprite, who sits 
on shore with a club, and destroys children. They fear to 
aid a drowning man, for fear of offending the water-sprite, 
who, in revenge, will draw the fish from their nets. These 
sprites are shaped like a fish, with human heads. 

The folk tales of Austria, Bohemia and South Germany, 
are full of tales of these water-sprites, that inhabit ever}' 
lake, river and stream. One comes out of the Teufel sea, in 
the shape of a white lady. The services of a midwife are 
often required beneath the waves, and such ser\'ices are 
usually well rewarded. A young girl lost in the woods was 
found by a water-man from the Teufel sea. Water-men are 
sometimes beneficial, women always malicious. 

*Hagen.— Deutsche Gedichte des Mittelalters. 

+ Grimm.— Teut. Myth. Kuhn and Schwartz.— Deutsche Sag:en. 

t Wuttke — Deutsches Aberglauhen. 


* Boatmen say a water-sprite lives in the Traumsee, who 
requires a yearly sacrifice. A young miller, in love with a 
nun in a convent near by, was wont to swim the lake, to see 
his lady, but was claimed as a victim, along with the recre- 
ant nun. The deep and rock-bound lakes of the Tyrol are 
inhabited by maiden-sprites, whose songs are often heard. 
Offerings are frequently left on the banks of streams for 
them. They requite favors with benefits, and one struck 
dead the person who attempted to harm her. Water-sprites 
abound in the Danube and Vienna rivers, and old clothes 
are given to propitiate them. 

f Bohemians will pray on the river-bank where a man 
has been drowned, and offer bread and wax candles to the 
spirit of the <vater. Duke Bresislaw forbade sacrifices, in 
Hungary, to water-spirits. 

J The DonaufUrst (Danube prince) is a malicious sprite, 
'dragging people below the waves. Eddies and whirlpools 
are caused by him. 

§ Bulgarians and Wallachians always throw a little water 
from each pail, as they believe that will spill out the water- 
spirit. In dipping water from a running stream, they are 
careful to hold the bucket down stream, to avoid catching 
the water-sprite, who dashes water in their faces. 

I Russian traditions concerning water-sprites are abun- 
dant. Rusalkas are female water-sprites, and Vodyannies 
male spirits. The Rusalkas appear as beautiful maidens 
with long hair, bathing and sporting in the water. They 
tickle bathers to death. In many places, offerings of linen 
clothing are made to them, as they are thought fond of 
washing it. They cause storms and wind, are thought to 
influence the luck of sailors and fishermen, sometimes tear- 
ing nets and driving fish away. If game were dropped to 
the left of a path, a water-sprite would come to seek it. 
They drowned people in the overflow of rivers, especially 
about Whit-Sunday, when no one must bathe, for fear of 
offending them. During one week, called Rusalka week, 
relatives of drowned or shipwrecked people pour eggs and 
spirits on their graves. Offerings were made directly to the 
spirits, and in some places, a ceremony of expelling them 
with a straw figure is performed. Some are thought ghosts 

* Jones. — Credulities, p, 63. 

+ Tylor.— Primitive Culture, Vol. I. 

iBlind. — Contemporary Review, 1881. 

ITj-lor.— Primitive Culture. II, 2U. 

(KalBton.— Songs of the Russian People, pp. 139-148. 


of Still-born or unbaptized children, or of drowned persons. 
The wild-fire, or jack-o'-lantern, was thought to be lighted 
by them. At Astrakan, marine Rusalkas are thought to 
raise storms and destroy shipping. They can produce a 
flood by combing their hair. They come out and dance on 
St. Peter's day. Anyone treading on the linen which they 
spread out to dry, will be lamed. Anyone bathing on Whit- 
Sunday without praying first will be drowned, and these 
sprites sometimes drag people under with a long hook. 
They float in egg shells. They are desirous to save their 
souls, and one at Astrakan asked, " Is the end of the world 
come? " 

A water-sprite came out of Lake Ladoga, and promised 
a fisherman great riches if he would subdue the "-sprite of 
the third wave, by throwing his axe into it." 

* The Vodyannies were rulers of fish, and influenced the 
weather and luck of fishermen. Their wives were drowned 
women. One of these wives is said in a popular story to 
have returned to visit her people, but, as in the case of 
Undine, her body floated up to the surface soon after her 
return. Another story is that a fisherman caught a Vody- 
anny child and returned him to the water on condition that 
he drive fish to the net, which he faithfully did. A fisher- 
man once caught a dead body in his net, but hastily threw 
it overboard, finding it to be a Vodyannj'. One must not 
bathe after sunset, nor without a cross about his neck. In 
the Ukraine, when the sea is rough, these water-sprites are 
seen on the surface, and their songs are heard. In some 
places a horse, smeared with honey and decked with flowers, 
is sacrificed, in others, oil is poured on the water to appease 

Other traditions assert that they are fallen angels. They 
sit on the shore, or sport in the waters at night. 

f They are also called Pharaohs, and are supposed to be 
the ghosts of the host drowned in the Red Sea. The chief 
water-sprite is Tsar Morskoi. A Russian folk-story is that 
a certain Ivan caught a fish, but liberated it, and in gratitude 
he was conveyed to the palace of the Tsar, where Ivan fell 
in love with his daughter. Both were driven out, and the 
fish guided them on shore. Another tale is told of Chudo 
Yudo, a water-sprite, who seizes people by the heard when 
they drink, and carries off a maiden to his palace and weds her. 

♦Ralston.— SoDgs of the Rtiesian People, 106, 129, 146. 
tBalston. — Songs of the Russian People, p. 17L 


The daughters of Tsar Morskoi appear as a pigeon, a 
duck, or a fish, and change into maidens, by shifting their 

In one tale, a peasant chalks a cross oh a water-sprite's 
back, preventing him from going into his natural element, 
until the cross is removed. 

A story told of Sadko, relates that he charmed with his 
music the Tsar Morskoi from the waters of Lake Ilmen, and 
was thereupon promised a rich reward. He cast a net, and 
drew a rich treasure to land. He became rich, and went to 
sea with his fleet of thirty ships. They were mysteriously 
stopped at sea, when Sadko confessed he had not offered 
"bread and salt to the Caspian." He was thereupon flung 
overboard, his gusli, or harp, with him. Arriving at the 
palace of Tsar Morskoi, he plays for him, charms him, 
wrecks a fleet, and is finally saved by St. Nicholas. 

* The Wends say water-sprites appear in the market in 
smock-frocks, with the bottom dripping. 

Esthonian stories are told of water-sprites, and in one 
case one dwelt in a well, and a gun was fired down it to 
quell him. In another tale, the " Lady of the Water," 
goddess of winds and waves, figures. 

Esthonians could see a churl with blue and yellow stock- 
ings in the sacred brook of Wohaanda. 

The "water-mother," or Wele-Ema, is the name given 
the water-maiden, and Aisstin Scheria, that applied to the 

f Water-sprites, called Ahktaisset, are known in Finland, 
having their dwelling below the sea, and recognized by a 
dripping garment. One was accustomed to come to market, 
and indicate to a butcher the desired portion, but the 
butcher maliciously cut off his finger on one occasion, and 
was soon after found dead with a red cloth about his throat. 

Allatius says water-sprites, called Navagidm, abounded in 
Greek rivers and streams, in 1600. 

Water-sprites are encountered in Italian " folk-myths. 
Orlando and Rinaldo§ are pursued by numerous emissaries 
of Fata Morgana, who lives in a beautiful palace below the 
sea. They escape all perils, and finally penetrate to her 
palace. Orlando also encounters a lake-siren, whom he 
kills. Tasso describes a water-sprite, seen in a fountain. 

* Grimm.— Teutonic Mythology, Vol. I, p. 492. 

+ Fraser's Mag. Vol. L V, p. 528. Folk-lore of Finland. 

$Ariosto. — Orlando Furioso. 


In another tale, the "Siren of the Sea," enters a ship 
through a hole bored to sink it, and carries off a maiden, 
whom she secures by binding her to the bottom with a 
golden chain. 

* Gervase of Tilbury, writing in the twelfth century, says 
there were certain water-sprites in the south of France 
called Dracae, in human form, who inhabited caverns and 
recesses beneath the water, and inveigled persons into them. 
Men were devoured, and women taken as wives. They 
were thought to lure them by floating about in the shape of 
cups or rings of gold. A woman is said to have returned 
after living with them seven years. 

f In Brittany, the water-women are called Korrigan. They 
are beautiful by night, but plain by daylight, with white 
hair, and red eyes. They are but two feet high, and wear 
only a veil, have beautiful voices, and are reputed the ghosts 
of Gallic princesses, who refused to become Christianized. 
They hate the priests, but are not otherwise harmful. Water- 
sprites and fountain maiJens appear in many parts of 
France, and numerous tales are told of them. 

J Walter Mapes tells a story of a Welshman who got a 
water-sprite for a wife, but one day she disappeared, having 
found, by accident, her sea-bridle in the market. 

Taliesin, the Welsh bard, tells of a certain Gwillion, a 
water-sprite inhabiting lakes and ponds. 

In a modern story, a cave near Pendine, Wales, is inhab- 
ited by two water-sprites, who lure ships to destruction, 
assuming various shapes, and even carrying ships on their 

A Celtic water-sprite brought stones to aid in building a 
certain church. 

In Scotland, the most famous water-sprite is "Shelly- 
coat," who appears covered with seaweed and shells. 

§" Shelly-coat," says Scott, "a spirit who resides in the 
waters, and gives his name to many a rock and stone upon 
the Scottish coast." 

Ramsay calls him "Spelly-coat," and mentions the belief 
that you must put running water between you and him. 

Two men heard from a small stream a cry of "lost, 
lost! " apparently from some one in distress. On approach- 

* Dobeneck in Thorpe.— N. Mythology, Vol. II, p. 13. 
+Sebillot.— Litteraturc Oraledc Haute Bretagne. 

t Walter Mapcs.— Nuga Curialum (IISO). 
§ Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. 


ing, it went up the stream; then, as they followed, down 
again, laughing at them, and rattling its shelly coat. 

*The Tees river has a water-sprite. Peg Porter, who 
lures people down below. Froth is " Peg Porter's suds," 
and foam " Peg Porter's cream." Children must not play 
near there, or the sprite will get them. 

In another river it is Peg O'Nell. She requires a life 
every year; and if no dog, cat, or bird is thrown in, will 
have a human life. A certain traveler, bound to cross the 
river when it was high, was warned that she would get him, 
but persisted in crossing, and was drowned. 

A man, riding on a brown horse with a black mane on 
the right side, caught a water-sprite. She was very restless 
in crossing a ford, and, on bringing her to the light, she 
dropped down, a mass of jelly. A shepherd caught another, 
but suddenly dropped her in the river, on observing her 

■fin the Orkneys, the sprite is "Tangy," covered with 
seaweed, or tang. \ In Sutherland, Scotland, the Fualh-a- 
Banshee is a water-maiden with web-feet, and long yellow 
hair. She is mortal, and steel controls her. She is evil- 
minded, and much the same as the " water-wraith " of the 
old song,^^ 

By this the storm grew loud apace, 
The water-wraith was shrieking." 

A sprite, the Daoine-Shi, comes out of lakes in the High- 
lands, playing melodious music, and questioning the clergy- 
men on the subject of her soul. 

§In a Highland tale, "The Widow's Son," we meet with 
the "Princess of the realm beneath the sea," who conducts 
the son to her sub-marine home. 

The kelpy has been described in Jamieson's ballad, and 
appears as half-man, half-fish. 

" The human schaip I sometimes aip," 

and says he rules the waves, to the salt sea. 

Some years since, a boat's crew were drowned in Solway 
Firth, because their cries were thought to be those of 
kelpies, so no one would go to their assistance. 

* Stewart.— Superstitions of the Highlands, q. by Thorpe, N. M., n, 18. 

+ Gregor.— Folk-lore of Scotland. 

t Campbell.— Tales of West Highlands. 

8 Campbell.— Tales of the West Highlands. 


* Sometimes the water-sprite appeared in the shape of a 
bird. The aquatic bird called a ''Bobbrie" is one of these. 

But whatever shape the water-sprite assumed, its appear- 
ance boded disaster. 

f ' ' The fishers have heard the water-sprite, 
Whose screams forbode that wreck is nigh." 

We may remember that Ariel becomes a water-sprite. 
Prospero says, — 

X " Go make thyself like a nymph of the sea; be subject 
To no sight but thine and mine; invisible 
.To every eyeball else." 

Such sprites are not unknown even in modern England. 
§" There is scarcely a stream of any magnitude in either 
Lancashire or Yorkshire, which does not possess its presid- 
ing spirit in same part of its course." At Clitheroe is one 
which requires a sacrifice every seven years. Nor is our 
own practical land without them. Negroes of South Caro- 
lina! believe that the springs and subterranean rivers are 
inhabited by water-spirits, called by them "Cymbees," — 
beings like the sprites of European tradition. 

** Water-sprites figure in other parts of the world. In 
the Japanese story, "The Lost Fish-hook," a boy'^has his 
hook carried off by a large fish. To him appeared the 
" ruler of the tides," who set him afloat in a basket, in which 
he sank to the palace of the sea-dragon, saw and loved his 
daughter. The fishes are bled to find the hook, which is in 
the red-fish's mouth. 

The rivers of India are haunted by these water-sprites, 
especially the Ganges, — the wife of Buddha. 

Sea-sprites figure in stories in the "Arabian Nights." 
Gulnare is one of these, and Abdallah catches one in his net. 
Three daughters of the sea, beautiful and beneficent, appear 
in the tale of "Al Habib." 

If Fishermen of Poyang lake, in Hunan, often miss their 
boats, which are temporarily borrowed for submarine pur- 
poses by the sprites of the lake. Music is always heard as 
these boats disappear, and the}' are safely returned to their 

'Gregor.— Folk-lore of Scotland. 

+ S<x>tt. — Lay of the Last Minstrel. 

t Tempest, Act I; scene 3. 

5 Farrar.— Primitive Civilization, p. 306. 

fl Popular Science Monthlr, 1875. 

« Mitford.— Tales of Old Japan. 

■ttChinese Tales. By Pu Sing Ling.— Giles' Translation. 


anchorages after a time. Lin, a boatman, fell asleep in his 
boat, and on awakening, found his boat in the possession of 
these sprites. The Water King, who lives beneath the 
waves, appeared, and gave his subjects lists of people to be 
drowned, two hundred and twenty-eight in number. In 
the storm that ensued, Lin was saved by virtue of a crystal 
square, given him as a talisman. Lin afterwards married 
one of the sprites, and she was able to revisit her friends when 
desirous of it, always returning with rich presents. 

* Esquimaux fear the spirits of the waters. A water-sprite 
haunted Pend d'Oreille lake, and in Lake Winnipeg, the 
Indians feared to speak for fear of offending them. Mexi- 
cans and Peruvians believed in water-beings, evil and benefi- 
cent. Algonquins believed in water-sprites, Nee-ban-aw- 

f In Ottawa legend, the spirits of Lake Michigan caused 
great storms. An Ojibway tale relates the seizure of a 
woman by a water-sprite in Lake Superior, who appeared 
in the shape of a tiger, and carried her to his water wig- 

J Among Guiana tribes, Orehue is the water-spirit. He 
is like a merman, but not always malignant. Sometimes he 
has the head of a horse or other animal. He sometimes 
seizes bathers, and drags them beneath the waves. He is be- 
lieved especially to frequent. a cove washed in the banks of 
the Pomeroon river. Many Indians would noiselessly row 
on the opposite banks at night. A dance in his favor is 
called the water-mawa dance. They carefully distinguish 
between this imaginary being and the manatee. Among other 
South American tribes, Gamainha is a spirit of the water. 

§ Mae d'Acqua is a lovely female on shore, a fish in the 

II Leewa is the water-ghost of Musquito Indians. The 
Suaranos say Wahua appears, rising from the water, and 
seizing maidens. 

** Kaffirs say people live beneath the waves, and have 
herds and dwellings. Zulus also believe in semi-human 
beings, who live in the ocean. 

Theal says Xosa Kaffirs believe in a water-spirit in the 

* Bancroft.— Native Eaces, Vol. Ill, pp. lti-6. 

•t Schoolcraft— Algic Eesearches, vol. I, p. 131. 

t Jones.— Credulities, p. 26. 

9 Verne.— Giant Euft, ch. XI. 

I Bancroft.— Native Hacea, Vol. Ill, p. 497. 

♦♦TheaL— Kaffir Folk-lore. 


shape of a crocodile. A water-sprite, in a Kaffir tale, calls 
a woman and pulls her down. 

*Ashango people say a water-sprite existed in the river 
Ngouyou, who made the rapids. This spirit, Fougamon, 
is a worker in iron. Fanti negroes say people used to take 
iron and leave it near the river, for the spirits to work up 
into useful articles. 

The water-sprite figures most in the guise of a sea- 
maiden, as her name, mermaid, literally signifies, whether 
we speak of the German Meerfrau, Danish Moremund, Ice- 
landic Margyr, or Breton Marie Morgan, Welsh Morva or 
Morreth, Dutch Zee-wjf, Swedish Sjotrold, Anglo-Saxon 
Merewif, Cornish Morhuch, Irish Merrow, or by any of the 
special titles their class receives. 

The idea of creatures beneath the wave, possessed of a 
human form with fish-like extremities, is not a modern one. 
Aside from the many fish-gods of antiquity, as Cannes, 
Dagon, and others, we are told by f Megasthenes that a 
creature like a woman inhabits the seas of Ce5'lon, and 
.^lian assures us there are whales formed like Satyrs. 
Tritons and Sirens were also figured half fish, in ancient 
representations. Demetrius saj's the Western islanders who 
died in hurricanes, were mermaids. Pliny says they came 
on board ships at night, and sunk them, and that Molos, 
making free with a sea-maiden, lost his head. 

l That ancient naturalist gave more circumstantial ac- 
counts of them. " Nor are we," sa)'s he, " to disbelieve the 
stories told of Nereids, completely covered with rough 

scales, as one has actually been seen in the , and the 

inhabitants heard at a great distance her lamentations, 
v.'hinings, and bowlings, when she was dying, and his lieu- 
tenant wrote to Augustus that a number of Nereids had 
been found dead on the coast of Gaul. Several distinguished 
persons of Equestrian rank have assured me that they them- 
selves have seen off the coast of Gades a merman, whose 
body was of a human form. He was accustomed to appear 
on board ships in the night time, and the part on which he 
stood gradually subsided, as if sunk down by his weight." 
He also asserts their existence in India, and Solinus and 
Aulus Gellius speak of them. These accounts of Plin)' are 
the first of the appearance of the real mermaid, although he 

♦ Du Chaillu. — Equatorial Africa. 
+ Jones. — Credulities, p. 25. 
t Nat. HisL. Vol IV. d, i. 


does not speak of the fish-tail. This idea, however, as we 
have seen, was not a new one. 

* The Nereids, daughter of the Oceanid Doris, and of 
Nereus, and mothers of many heroes, were at first imagined 
beautiful rnaidens. A mural painting in Pompeii shows such 
a one. Later they were given the fish-tail, thus becoming 

Achelous, brother of Nereus, and Calliope, were parents 
of the Sirens, and as we have seen, they, too, were gradually 
transformed from human-faced birds to fish-tailed maidens. 

So also with the Tritons, offspring of Neptune and Am- 
phitrite, who, at first regarded as men in form, were after- 
wards given the fish-tail and monstrous form, usually seen 
in art. 

In the middle ages, stories of mermaids increased, and 
their characteristics were definitely settled. 

Arabian writers often speak of them. fEl-Kazwini says 
the Arabs believed that certain fish-men lived in islands in 
the Indian Ocean, and ate drowned men. Abou Muzaine 
says a Siren named the Old Man of the Sea, often ap- 
peared, prognosticating the good harvests. It spoke an 
unknown tongue. A similar animal caught a woman and 
married her, and their son spoke the language of both. 
Another similar animal, the Old Jew,I came to the surface 
in the Mediterranean, on Friday night, and played about 
ships all the Jewish Sabbath. Ibnala Bialsaths says sailors 
in his time caught on foreign shores marine women, with 
brown skin and black eyes, speaking a strange tongue. 
Ibn-Batuta, an old Arab writer, says he saw fish in the 
Persian Gulf with a human head as large as that of a child. 

§ Theodore de Gaza saw several Sirens on board ship, in 
the Peloponnessian sea, which were put back in the water, 
after being kept on board some time. They were beautiful 
maidens. George of Trebizonde saw one in the open sea. 
Gyllius says the skin of sea men taken in Dalmatia is so 
tough that it is used to make saddle covers. 

II In the Nibelungen Lied, Hagen steals a mermaid's gar- 
ments, but she foretold him good luck if he would give 
them back again." . Another story is that a mermaid told 
Hagen's fortune, but he, dissatisfied with it, cut off her 

•Landrin.— Les Monstres Marins, 262. 

+ Landrin. — Les Monstres Marins, 282. 

t Bochar. — Hierozoicon. 

SLandrin. — Les Monst'es Marins, 265 etpeq. 

ILudJow.— Popular Epics of Middle Ages. II, 131. 


head, which mysteriously joined the body again, and a 
storm thereupon ensued. 

The old poets allude to them. Tasso makes two knights 
walk by a lake in a pleasure garden where, — 

' ' Two blooming damsels on the water lave 
And laugh and plunge beneath the lucid wave. 

The blood of a mermaid was then thought a prophylactic. 
Ariosto relates that Orlando smeared his casque with the 
blood of a Siren; — 

" Naught resists his touch of flame e iron 
Save what has drunk the life blood of a Siren." 

* Gower thus sings, — 

" Sirenes of a wonder kind 
Ben monstres as the bokes telleth 
And in the gret sea they dwelleth. 
Oi body both aAd of visage 
Lik vnto women of yonge age, 
Up fro' the navel on high they be. 
And down benethe as men may see 
They bene of fishes the figure." 

f Spenser says they are, — 

"Transformed into fish for their bold surqueedry." 

J And Guyon shows two maidens disporting in a fount- 
ain. An old verse of " Sir Patrick Spens " speaks of them, — 

" Upstarted the mermaid by the ship, 
Wi' a glass and a kame in her hand, 
Says, ' reek about, reek about, my merry men. 
Ye are not very far from land.' " 

§ Vincent de Beauvais sa3's mermen were avoided by 
throwing a bottle overboard, when they will stop to play 
with them. 

So learned a man as Joseph Scaliger believed in them. 
Two Epirote sailors told him they had seen a Siren. Valerio 
Tesio, a Valencian, told him one was taken in Spanish 
waters, but was restored to the sea soon after. 

Many heroes, like the demi-gods of old, claimed descent 
from sea-maidens. 

♦Ckjnfessio Amantis, 1393. 

+ Faerie Queene. 

t Bower of Bliss. 

SLandrln.— Lee Monstres Marlns, p. 366. 


Wieland, or Waylund, a mythical Vulcan of the middle 
ages, is said to have descended from a mermaid. 

So the French Counts of Lusignan, ancient kings of 
Cypress and Jerusalem, still claim as their ancestor and 
founder a water-maiden, Melusina, whom an ancestor saw 
bathing in a fountain, and whom he wedded. 

The romances of the middle age often speak of them. 
Such are the maidens of the Rheingold, celebrated in Wag- 
ner's melodious strains. 

*In the romantic legends of William of Orange, a mer- 
maid is caught by a cavalier, but liberated. In gratitude 
therefore, she saves her captor, when his ship is wrecked. 
When mermaids appeared " then began they all to sing so 
high, so low, so sweet, and so clear, that the birds leave off 
flying, and the fish leave off swimming." 

The ballads of Chivalry extolled their beauty. Doolin 
says, of a beautiful woman, " I thought she was an angel, or 
a sea-siren." 

fin a Sicilian tale, a maiden treacherously thrown into 
the sea, is carried off by a merman, and chained to his tail. 
A similar story is told by Gubernatis, but the maiden is here 
liberated, her brother feeding the siren meat, while seven 
blacksmiths sever the chain. 

These mermaids particularly desire a human soul — a 
thing denied to them by the churchmen. -J Paracelsus says: 
" So it follows that they woo men, to make them industrious 
and homelike, in the same way as a heathen wants baptism, 
to save his soul; and thus they create so great a. love for 
men, that they are with men in the same union." This of the 
maidens, but mermen were not so friendly, often dragging 
people down, like Nick. 

§In "The Eastern Travels of John of Hesse" (1389), we 
read: ''We came to a smoky and stony mountain, where 
we heard sirens singing, proprie mermaids, who draw ships 
into danger by their songs. We saw there many horrible 
monsters, and were in great fear." 

II In 1 187, a merman is said to have been taken near 
Suffolk, England. It resembled a man, but could not 
speak. It escaped one day, fled into the sea, and was not 
again seen. 

*Cox and Jones.— Romances of the Middle Ages. 

+ Gubernatis. — Zoological Mjrthology, II. 

t Treatise of Elemental Spirits. 

SJones. — Credulities, p. 30. 

I Hiatolre D' Angleterre, in Jones' Credulities, p. a(X 


But the accounts of the early appearances of the mer- 
maid are more circumstantial in northern countries. Here, 
where Nick dragged people down, where Ran sucked the 
breath of the drowned, and where the Stromkarl and the 
Kelpie flourished, the mermaid was often seen, sitting on 
the rocks, combing her hair, and predicting disaster to the 

* Pontoppidan, Bishop of Norway, tells us much of the 
appearance of mermaids on the coasts of that country. 
Near Landscrona, on the Danish coast, three sailors in a 
boat saw something floating. On approaching it, it sank, 
then arose, and swam waist-deep. It appeared like an old 
man,' with broad shoulders, small head, deep sunken eyes, 
thin face, black beard and hair, with fish-like extremities. 
A minister, Peter Angell, of Sundmoer parish, told the 
bishop that he saw a merman lying on the strand dead. It 
was about six feet long, dark gray in color, with the lower 
part like a fish, and a tail like a porpoise, a man's face, and 
arms joined by membranes to the body. 

f We have earlier notices of them in the " Royal Mirror,'' 

which speaks of mermen and maids, calling the latter Mar- 

gyra, and ascribing to them the attribute of a fish-tail, but 

. saying nothing about its possession by the merman, or 


JA later writer says: " Seamen and fishers in very tran- 
quil waters sometimes see mermen and mermaids rise to 
the quiet top of the sea." These are described as fair 
maidens, with fish-tail, long j^ellow hair, etc. Their chil- 
dren are called Marmaeler, "Sea-talkers." "Sometimes the 
fishermen take them home, to get from them a knowledge 
of the future." "Seamen are very sorrj' to see these creat- 
ures, thinking they portend a storm." 

§ Norwegian stories are numerous. When the sea is 
calm they say the mermen (Marmenill) and mermaids 
(Margyr) rise to the surface. The mermen are described 
as being oldish men, with long beard and black hair, man 
from the waist upwards and fish downwards, and the rher- 
maid is described as usual. The appearance of these beings 
forebodes a storm, and it is thought dangerous to hurt 
them. A sailor enticed one to his boat and cut off her hand 
as it lay on the gunwale. He nearly perished in the storm 

♦Natural History of Norway, q. Baring: Gould. — Curious Myths, p. 508. 

tKonigs Skugg, 1170. 

tFaye.— Norsk Sagen. 

JThorpe.— N. Mythology. Paye.— Norsk Sagen. 


that arose in consequence. If in diving they turn toward a 
ship, it is a bad omen; if from the ship, no evil will result. 
St. Olaf, on one of his piratical cruises, met one of these 
sirens, who was wont to lure sailors to destruction. 

* Icelandic chronicles relate that three sea-monsters were 
seen near Greenland. The first, seen by Norwegian sailors 
in the water, had the body of a man, with broad shoulders, 
stumps of arms, and a pointed head. Heavy storms suc- 
ceeded its appearance. The second was like a wornan to 
the waist, with large breasts, disheveled hair, and large 
hands on the stumpy arms, webbed like a duck's foot. It 
held fish in its hand and ate them, and the usual signs with 
regard to the manner of its eating or using the fish are then 

fThe "Speculum Regali," an Icelandic work, tells us: 
"A monster is seen also near Greenland, which people call 
the Margyr. This creature appears like a woman as far 
down as her waist; long hands and soft hair, the neck and 
head in all respects like that of a human being. The hands 
seem to people to be long, and the fingers not to be parted, 
but united by a web, like that on the feet of water-birds. 
From the waist downward, this monster resembles a fish, 
with scales, tail, and fin. This prodigy is supposed to show 
itself more especially before heavy storms. The habit of 
this creature is to dive fi'equently, and rise again to the 
surface with fishes in its hands. When sailors see it play- 
ing with the fish, or throwing them toward the ship, they 
fear they are doomed to lose several of the crew; but when 
it casts the fish, or, turning from the vessel, flings them 
away from her, then the sailors take it as a good omen that 
they will not suffer loss, in an impending storm. The 
monster has a very horrible face, with broad brow and 
piercing eyes, a wide mouth, and double chin." 

This excellent account embodies most of the traditions 
regarding the appearance and prognostications from the 
sight of the mermaid, current since that time. J The 
" Landnama," or Icelandic records of land, tells us of Mar- 
menill, or mermen, caught off the island of Grimsey, and other 
annals tell us of their appearance there in 1305 and 1309. 

§We also read in the Chronicle of Storlaformus, of the 

* Iceland, Its Scenes and Sagas.— B. Gould, p. 349. 
+ Jones. — Broad, Broad Ocean, p. 263. 

t Jones.— Credulities, p. 21. 

gChronicle of Storlaformus (1215), q. by Landrin, *'Lea Monstres Marins." 


Hafstrambr: "It resembles a man from the neck, in its 
head, its nose, and its throat, except that the head is extra- 
ordinarily high, and elongated in front. It had shoulders 
like a man, and attached to them two stumps of arms 
without hands. The body tapers below, but it has never 
been seen how it is formed below the waist." He also 
describes the Marguguer. "It is formed like a woman, as 
far as the waist. It has a large bosom, thick hair, large 
hands, with fingers webbed like the foot of a goose, at- 
tached to its stumpy arms." 

* Modern Icelandic folk-lore divides these beings into 
two classes. First, there are the Margyr, Hafgyr (Sea and 
Harbor-troll) or Haf-fru (Sea-maid), the seductive maidens 
of the sea, who have long yellow hair, often sleep in the 
boats, and occasionally drag them down, and who can be 
prevented from doing harm by the repetition of a sacred 
hymn. Then there are the Marmenill, or mermen, who 
never appear on the surface, but are occasionally caught in 
the nets, and who then become quite homesick, and ear- 
nestly beg to be put back into the water, f These make 
the millepora, coral, called in Iceland, Marmenill's Smi thi. 

In a folk tale, a sea-troll appears in a stone boat, bring- 
ing luck to a ship, in good breezes and fine weather. 

Mermaids are said still to be seen near Grimsey. They 
will pull men out of boats, but a credo will control them. 

\ Mermaids are seen on the Swedish coast, sitting on a 
rock combing their hair, with a glass in their hands, or 
spreading out linen to dry. They are said to be fatal and 
deceitful, and storms and tempests follow their appearance. 
If a fisherman sees one, he should not speak of it to his 
comrades. They are said to dwell at the bottom of the sea, 
and have castles, palaces, and herds of brindled cattle. 

A certain knight, Gunnar, dwelt by a lake in Sweden 
(Anten). He fell in one day, was rescued by a mermaid, 
and used thereafter to meet her weekly. Failing to do 
so once, the water rose and drowned him out of his 
castle, and he sank to the water-maiden's abode while 
escaping in a boat. The stone near which his boat tradi- 
tionally sank, is still called Gunnar's stone. Fishermen 
rowing by it, salute by raising their hats, else they would 
have no luck. 

* AmaDSon. — Icelandic Legends. 

+ Thorpe.— Northern Mythology, Vol. II, pp. 27-8. 
t Thorpe.— Northern Jlrthology, Vol. II, pp. 27-8. 




These mermaids are said to entice young men, prognos 
ticate storms, and fortell the future. Often they carry ; 
harp. One flung away her harp on hearing that sh& woulc 
not be saved like a Christian. ' 

* In Sweden, the door of a fisherman's hut was opened ai 
night, and a woman's hand appeared. The next night i 
bold fellow watched, seized the hand, and disappeared 
Some time afterward, when his wife remarried, he cam€ 
back, saying that he had dwelt with the mermaid mean- 
while, but was allowed to revisit the earth on condition ol 
not entering the house. He did so, however, when the rool 
of the house was blown off, and the young man soon aftei 

Another legend, given in a poem by Smaland, is of Duke 
Magnus, son of Gustavus Vasa, who saw a mermaid, who 
promises him, if he will marry her, among other thing, a 
fine ship. But he resisted her importunities, whereupon 
she declared he would always be crazy. He died insane. 

I It is deemed unlucky by Swedish fishermen to meet a 
meerwife. One story is told of a party of fishermen who 
were doubtingly joking about such beings, when one ap- 
peared and flung herself into the water. They caught no 
fish that day. 

§ These Hafsfru are said to appropriate the bodies of 
drowned men that do not rise to the surface. Swedish folk- 
tales concerning them are numerous. ]| In one, a maiden 
jumps overboard to save a ship in a gale, and is protected 
by the "mermaid who rules over all those that perish by 
sea." She is allowed to return to earth. In a variant, the 
" sea-troll " bores a hole in the ship, changes the maiden 
into a serpent, then into a mermaid, and thus obtains her. 
In another tale, the troll raises a storm and wrecks man}"- 
ships. In another, a Havviatid appears to Svend, closes his 
ears and eyes, and carries him down to his habitation below 
the waves. Another mermaid stops a ship, obtains from 
a queen the promise of one of her sons, and then only 
allows the ship to proceed. The prince is one da)' riding 
on his horse near the sea, when suddenly the animal plunges 
in, and carries his rider to the sea-palace. After perform- 
ing many herculean feats, the hero returned to earth, 

* Jones. — Credulities, p. 23. 
-t Jones. — Credulities, p. 26. 

JThoi-pe.— Northern Mvthology.Vol. II, p. 76. 
e Grimm.— Ti;ut. Myth. II, 497. 

II Ddseut.— Fop ular Tales from the Norse. 


whither thie maiden follows. In a variant, it is a king who 
promises his son, and substitutes for him various animals^ 
which are in turn cast on shore dead. 

In other stories, people assume the forms of fish, to 
escape from pursuing mermaids. 

* Danish legends are also numerous. In the neighbor- 
hood of Assen, many sea-people appeared on the strand, 
and fishermen often saw them with their children. In 
Nordstrand, a merwife grazing her cattle was captured by 
some people, and in revenge, covered the town with sand. 
In Aarhuus parish, a merman enticed a maiden to the 
bottom of the sea. But one day, after she had raised many 
children, she heard the bells and would go up. He allowed 
her to go on promise of returning, but she did not, and his 
wails from the depths are often heard. A ballad "Agnete 
og Harmandar," and two others, were written on this tale, 
which is the original of the " Forsaken Merman," of Matthew 
Arnold. An old Danish ballad says a mermaid foretold the 
death of Dagmar, queen of Frederick II., and the story 
goes: "In the year 1576 there came, late in the autumn, a 
simple old peasant from Samso to the court, then being 
held at Kalundborg, who related that a beautiful female 
had more than once come to him, while working in his field 
by the sea-shore, whose figure from the waist downward 
resembled that of a fish, and who had repeatedly and strictly 
enjoined him to go and announce to the king that God had 
blessed his queen, so that she was progressed of a son (after- 
ward Christian II.), and would be safely delivered of him." 

H. C. Andersen tells a story of six mermaids, who were 
allowed to rise to the surface at sixteen years of age. The 
youngest saw a ship, and fell in love with a young prince on 
board. She was changed into an earth maiden by a water- 
witch, but the prince failed to marry her. Given a knife by 
her sisters to kill him, she fails to use it, plunges into the 
water, and is drowned herself. 

f John Philip Abelinus related in the first volume of his 
"Theatre of Europe," that in the year 1619 two councillors 
of Christian IV., of Denmark, sailing between Norway and 
Sweden, discovered a merman swimming about with a 
bunch of grass on his head. They threw out a bait to him 
with a fish-hook concealed therein. The merman was fond 
of good living, it seems, and was caught with a slice of 

* Thiele. — Denmarks Folkes Sagen. 

+ Thorpe.— N. Mythology, VoL III, p. 170. 


bacon. When caught, he threatened vengeance so loudly, 
that he was thrown back into the sea. Abelinus gives a 
picture of this merman. 

In 1670, mermaids were seen on the islands off the Dan- 
ish coast. * Resenius says a mermaid prophesied and 
preached against drunkenness. 

Ferrymen testified in 1723, to having seen a merman be- 
tween Hveen and Ssedland. It was an old man, with black 
hair and beard, small head and broad shoulders. 

Popular tradition asserts that children frequently find 
little animals on the coast, a mixture between a man and a 
fish, but as soon as they have fed them, they set them into 
the water, for fear of misfortune, should the sea people be 

The malignant character of the mermaid appears in an 
old ballad, — 

" Drowned at sea 
Seven ships of mine she has." 

In another ballad, a mermaid steals a bride away, but 
her lover, — 

" Sail'd Norway's shore along, 

And there, at her cave, the mermaid found 
Who wrought so grievous wrong." 

In the " Power of the Harp," Sir Peter loses his bride in 
crossing a stream, but calls for his golden harp, whose dul- 
cet tones charm his mermaid bride and her two sisters from 
the waves. 

A mermaid in a certain tale, assumes the human form, 
but warns her lover never to approach her while she be- 
comes a fish, as she is then very fierce. 

fin the Faroe Islands, there was a superstition that every 
ninth night, seals cast off their skins, assumed human forms, 
and danced on the beach. A fisherman found a skin one 
night, and obtained a wife thereby, but she got possession of 
the skin after years, and disappeared. Other stories similar 
to this are told, only it is a red cap, instead of a seal's skin. 
The possessor will be transported over seas by it. 

t In 1670, mermaids were seen at the Faroe Islands. 

g Among Shetlanders, there was a firm belief in mermaids, 
and the seal-skin story is there told as in the Faroe Islands. 

• life of Frederick II. 

+ Folk-lore Record. 

t Gould. — Curious Mj-ths of the Middle Ages. Melaaina. 

8 Hibbert' s Shetland. Thorpe.— Northern Mythology, Vol. II, p. 173. 


A fisherman of Unst saw a group dancing on the strand, 
picked up a seal-skin, and found a beautiful maiden in tears, 
who begged the skin, but perforce married him, when re- 
fused it. She often conversed with sea-people; one of her 
children found the seal-skin, showed it to her, and she was 
afterwards seen by her husband as a seal, diving from the 
rocks. They are thought to dwell in coral caves, resemble 
human beings, but are more beautiful. Wishing to come 
on earth, they cast off the hair garment. They are said 
particularly to love to revel about Ve Skerries (sacred rocks), 
are mortal, and are said to have been taken and killed by 
superstitious fishermen. 

* The mermen were, as Blind shows, known by the name 
of Finns, and were said to possess great nautical skill, row- 
ing boats nine miles an hour. Sometimes they pursued 
ships, when nothing should be said to them, but silver 
pieces thrown overboard would prevent them from doing 
harm. Another authority says these men alone doffed the 
seal-skins, and could only resume the seal form by retain- 
ing possession of the skin. One tale is told of a merman 
caught by a fisherman, who grew larger and larger, until 
the fisherman complied with his request to throw him over- 
board, when he promised him luck. The stories of sea- 
brides obtained by mortals are numerous, and the mermaids 
are always endowed with a fish-tail. 

Fishermen in the Hebrides are said to have caught a 
mermaid during the present century. 

Scotch stories of them are not wanting. An old tale, 
the " Master of Weemys," is of a ship encountering one at 
sea, — 

f ' ' She held a glass with her richt hande. 
In the other she held a kame; 
And she kembit her hair, and aye she sang, 
As she flotterit on the faem. 

Sayle on, sayle on, said she; 

Sayle on, and ne'er bluine 
The wind at will your sayles may fill 

But the land ye shall nevir win." 

In another legend a mermaid decoys a knight out to sea 
with her. In another, a fisherman catches a mermaid in a 
net. She ties two knots, and darkness comes; three, and a 

♦ Blind. — Scottish and Shetlandish Water-tales. Contemporary Keview, 
August, 1S81. 

+ Scotch and English Legeuddry Biillads. 


tempest. He shakes her off by a spell, and the storm ceases. 
Here we have the magic storm-causing witch-knots. We 
find in an old Scotch poem these lines, — 

"A mennaid from the water rose 
And spaed Sir Sinclair ill." 

A sea-maiden promised luck to a Scotch fisherman if he 
would give up his son in three years. She got him, but his 
mother finally obtained him from the sea-depths by playing 
music to the mermaid. 

* Sometimes the visits of mermaids were considered ben- 
eficial. A mermaid is said to have asked a Scotchman, who 
was reading the Bible, if there was comfort there for her. 
He said there was mercy for the sons and daughters of 
Adam, when she screamed and disappeared. 

In the ballad, " Rosmer Hafmand," the merman carries 
a maiden to his sea-palaces, but she finally deceives him, 
and is carried back in a chest along with a young lover, 
whom she has passed off as a relative. 

fA mermaid, who vi'as accustomed to sing while seated 
on a stone in front of Knockdolin House, predicted disaster 
when the stone was removed, on account of her disturbing 
the young heir with her songs; — 

" Ye may think on your cradle, I'll think on my stane, 
And there'll never be an heir to Knockdolin again." 

Mermaids were often dangerous. "The young Laird of 
Lorntie was about to rush into the water, to save a 3'oung 
creature whom he saw struggling there, but was restrained 
by his servant, who said, " That wailing madam was nae 
other, God sauf us, than the mermaid," As they rode off, 
she exclaimed: 

" Lorntie, Lorntie, 
Were it na for your man 
I had gart your hairt's bluid 
Skirl in my pan! " 

X Leyden's poem, " The Mermaid," is based on a tradition 
that a certain McPliail of Colonsa)' Isle, was carried off by 
a mermaid, and married her, but afterwards deserted her. 
She sang to him, — 

* Gregor.— Folk-lore of Scotland. 
+ Folk-lore Record. 

t Scott.— Jlinstrelsy of the Scottish Border. 


" The mennaids sweet sea-soothing lay 
That charmed the dancing waves to sleep, 
Before the Bark of Colonsay. 

And ever as the year returns 
The charm-bound sailors know the day 
For sadly still the mermaid mourns 
The lovely chief of Colonsay." 

Many other ballads celebrate the adventures of these sea- 
maidens, who entice mariners into the sea, are sometimes 
caught in nets, can raise storms by singing, or by knotting 
their hair, and can be conquered by certain spells. 

*In the Aberdeen Almanac of 1688, it was predicted, that 
if people should go to the mouth of the Dee on the ist, 
13th, or 29th of May, they would see "a pretty company of 

A school-master of Thurso, testified in 1797, that he saw 
a mermaid on the rocks, combing her long hair, and twelve 
j'ears afterward, others were seen in the same place. In 
1871, John Mclsaac, of Kintyre, whose testimony was sup- 
ported by others, averred he saw one on the coast of Scot- 
land. They are often seen, by the islanders, sitting on the 
rocks between Jura and Scarba. 

f A Dr. Hamilton wrote to the Edinburg magazine, some 
_ ears since, of the finding of a mermaid near the Shetland 
Islands, by two fishermen. They had it in the boat some 
two hours, but becoming superstitious, threw it overboard. 
It was gray in color, and had a fish tail, but neither scales 
nor hair on its body, nor webs nor fingers on its hands. 

JWaldron says: "Mermen and Mermaids have been fre- 
quently seen. Many surprising stories of these amphibious 
creatures have I been told." 

§ A young mermaid fell in love with a Manx shepherd, 
and in embracing him, held him so tight, that he feared she 
\vould do him harm. He accordingly repulsed her, when 
she flung a stone at him, and mortally wounded him. 

II Fishermen caught a sea maiden, but let her go, fearful of 
evil consequences. She was afterward asked what strange 
things she saw above the water, but the only thing she had 
particularly remarked, was that the water in which eggs 
were boiled was thrown away. 

* Baring Gould.— Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, Melaaina. 

+ Gregor. — Folk-lore of Scotland. 

i Waldron. — History and Description of the Isle of Alan, 1744. 

% Scott. — Demonology and Witchcraft. 

'Scoft.- -Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. 


A Manx diver reported that he found " below the fishes,'' 
palaces of mother-of-pearl, with floors of inlaid stones, and 
inhabited by mermen and maids. 

* Gervase of Tilbury reports the appearance of mermaids 
in English seas: "They attract sailors by their sweet songs, 
and lead them to wreck and destruction." 

{Sir Thomas Browne says: "They are concieved to 
answer the shape of the ancient -syren that attempted upon 
Ulysses, which, notwithstanding, were of another descrip- 
tion, containing no fish)' composition, but made up of man 
and bird." 

JCoad says. " The mermaid, I take it as I find it, whether 
it were a realitj' or a spectre. I can promise spectres are 
seen at sea some times, and I believe also that there are 
such Mockage of Humane Nature seen, as an ape is on the 

The early English poets occasionally allude to them. 
Shakspeare was well versed in the mermaid lore, as he 
speaks of them in many plays.§ 

11 John Taylor, the " water-poet," thus sings of one, — 

" Four miles from land, we almost were aground, 
At last, unlook'd for, on our larboard side, 
A thick turmoyling in the sea we spyed. 
Like to a Merman, wading as he did. 
All in the sea his nether parts were hid. 
Whose brawny limbs and rough, neglected beard. 
And grim aspect, made us half afraid." 

He spoke to them in good Kentish, and finally guided 
them out of danger. 

Sabrina, goddess of the Severn river, was aided by them 
when she took refuge in the river depths, — 

** " The water-nymphs that in the bottom play'd. 
Held up their pearled wrists, and took her in." 

The fish-exhibition alluded to by Autolycus, in " Winter 
Tale," " Here's another ballad of a fish that appeared upon 
the coast of a Wednesday, the fourscore of April, forty 
thousand fathoms above water, and sung this ballad against 

* Schindler.— Aberglanben des Middelalters, 20. 
+ PseudoJdca Epidemica. Y, 19. 

$ Astro-Meteorologica (1686), p. 204. 

JMidsucnmer Ni.ifhts Dream, Act lil, scene 2. Comedy of Errors, Act III 
ecene 2. Winters" Tale. Antony and Cleopatra, Act II, scenes 3 and 3. Henry 
VI, Act TH, scene 2. 

I " A New Discovery by Sea," 1023. 

** Milton.— Poems. 


the hard hearts of maids. It was thought she was a woman, 
and was turned into a cold fish, for she would not exchange 
flesh with one that loved her," is paralleled by one in the 
"City Match,"* 

" Why, 'tis a man-fish, 
An ocean centaur, begot between a siren 
And a he stock-fish." 

An old mariner's song runs thus, — 

"One Friday morning we set sail. 
And, when not far from land, 
We all espied a fair mermaid 

With a comb and a glass in her hand; 
The stormy winds they did blow." 

Thus embodying the storm-raising omens of sailing on Fri- 
day, and of seeing a mermaid 

f The Stationers' Company published, in 1684, an account 
of " a strange reporte of a monstrous fish that appeared in 
the form of a woman from the waist upward, scene in the 

Early navigators chronicle their appearance. Columbus, 
in his "Journal," relates the appearance of three, raising 
themselves above the waves. He says he had previously 
seen them on the coast of Africa. He does not represent 
them as beautiful maidens, and they were probably manatee 
or dugongs. Hudson tells us: "This morning, one of our 
company looking overboard saw a mermaid, and calling up 
some of the company to see her, one more came up, and by 
that time she was come closely to the ship's side, looking 
earnestl)' at the men. A little after, a sea came and over- 
turned her. From the navel up, her back and breasts were 
like a woman's, as they say that saw her, her body as big as 
one of us, her skin very white, and long hair hanging down 
behind, of color black. Seeing her go down, they saw her 
tail, which was like that of a porpoise, speckled like a mack- 

In i8t2, a gentleman of Exmouth saw a creature like a 
mermaid sporting in the water. One was seen on the Argle- 
shire coast, on June 4, 1857, rising three or four times out 
of the water. Other appearances of them in 181 7 and in 
1863, near the Suffolk coast, are recorded. The skeleton of 
a so-called mermaid found on one of the islands, was ascer- 
tained to be that of a dugong. 

* Mayne.— City Match, 1639. 
t Jones.— Credulities. 



*A Story is told among seafaring men that a diver once 
saw a beautiful mermaid outside of his glass diving-bell. 
She told him she would protect him, if he would always 
recognize her in any shape. He promised, but, some days 
afterwards, he crushed a polypus with his foot. The next 
time he went down, the mermaid told him it was her whom he 
had injured, and he soon after met his death in consequence, 
f Cornish fishermen call them merrj'maids, or Morgan 
(sea-women). At a place on the coast, a sudden lifting of 
the fog disclosed seals on a rock, and these were said to be 
mermaids. Another rock on the Cornish coast, called Mer- 
maid's Rock, is said to be a haunt of these maidens just be- 
fore a wreck. Certain }fOung men visited these rocks at 
such a time, but never reappeared. Senten Harbor was tra- 
ditionally choked up by a mermaid. One is said to have 
been caught by an old man, and, in return for carrying her 
to sea, she gave him the power of dispelling witches, and 
also bestowed on him her comb. A family in Cornwall still 
display this comb (really a piece of a shark's jaw) in proof 
of this visit. A story entitled " The Mermaid's Revenge " 
tells us that a certain poor couple bathed their child daily 
in the sea. One day it slipped from 
their hands, was exchanged for a mer- 
maid, which grew up in their family. 
She was afterwards betrayed b}' a lover, 
and he was dragged into the water, while 
walking on the strand, some time after- 
wards, as a punishment for his crime. 

So-called mermaids have been exhib- 
ited several times in England. |In 1755, 
a carefully made imposture representing 
a mermaid, said to have been captured 
in the Grecian seas, was exhibited in 
London. Another, said to have been 
captured at sea by a Captain Forster, was 
shown at Covent Garden at the same 
time, and there is an account of the exhi- 
bition of one in Chamber's " Book of 
Days," in 1809. In 1S22, a figure made 
in the East Indies, and brought to Lon- 
barnum's MERMAm. don, consisting of a fish-tail joined to an 

• Bottrell.— Traditions of West Cornwall. 

+ Hunt.— Romance and Drollp of the West of England. 

t Gould.— Myths of the Middle Ages. 


ape's body, was exhibited in London, purchased at a high 
figure by Barnum, and brought to America. I believe it is 
now in the Boston Museum. * Scheie de Vere says a living 
mermaid was advertised in England, but was found to be a 
woman with a fish's tail sewn to her body. 

Welsh tales of mermaids are told by Sikes, and by other 

f The story of the surgeons of Myddvai, relates that one 
of their ancestors, while sitting on the banks of the dark 
Lake Lyn y Van Vach, saw three maidens in the water, and 
courted them. They, however, called him " eater of baked 
bread," and refused to have anything to do with him. One 
day, however, he saw unbaked bread floating on the lake, 
ate it, and was thereby possessed of one of the mermaids. 
She declared that she would leave him, should he strike her 
thrice. He did so, in angry moments, and she left him. It 
is related that she visited her sons, and taught them medi- 
cine, in which their descendants are yet skilled. Welsh 
mermaids, however, are scarce, all the water-sprites and 
water-fairies of their stories being without the fishy tail that 
characterizes the mermaid proper. 

A mermaid, looking like a maiden of seventeen years, 
was seen at Ren-y-hold in 1782. 

JGwenhidwy, whose sheep are the waves and who, 

' Drives her white flocks afield, and warns in time 
The wary fisherman," 

was fabled a mermaid. " Take the mermaid's advice, and 
save thyself; take shelter when you see the mermaid driving 
her flocks ashore," says an old Welsh poem. 

§ The Irish mermaid is called Merrow, or Moruach (sea- 
maid). Mermen have green hair, red eyes and nose, and 
are fond of brandy. A man obtained a sea-wife, but on 
returning home one night, he saw two seals on the beach, 
and found that one was his wife, who had obtained her 

An old Celtic legend says Liban and her family were 
drowned in Lough Neagh, but she became a mermaid, mar- 
ried a knight, whom she fascinated, and was baptized. 

]| The first merman was Fintan, who came to Ireland 

» WoQders of the Deep, p. 29. 

+ Choice Notes, Notes and Queries, p. 33 and 34. 

t See Chapter I. 

§ Croker. — Fairy Legends of the South of Ireland. 

I Popular Folk-lore of Ireland, Eclectic Mag., 1813. 


before the deluge, was saved in the form of a fish, after- 
wards lived on shore, and was converted by St. Patrick, 
and became a saint himself. Old sculptures show him, like 
the Assyrian Dagon. In the cathedral of Omfert, County 
Ireland, a sculptured mermaid is seen, carrying a book in 
her hand. 

A story of the Lady of GoUerus, given by Croker, relates 
that a mermaid was caught by getting possession of her 
enchanted cap (cohuleen druith). She sa)'s she is daughter 
of the king of the waves, marries her captor, but, as usual, 
finds the cap and disappears. The tale of the " Last of the 
Cantillons " relates that deceased members of that family 
were left on the sea-side to be carried awaj' by sea-men, but 
that a curious fellow watched these people, and they de- 
clared no more should be thus carried away. In the story 
of the Lord of Dunkerron, he encounters a mermaid, — 

"For a beautiful spirit of ocean, 'tis said, 
The Lord of Dunkerron would win to his bed; 
When by moonlight the waters were hush'd to repose 
That beautiful spirit of ocean arose. 
Her hair, full of lustre, just floated and fell 
O'er her bosom that heav'd with a billowy swell." 

He follows her to sea-caverns, but, after a time, on visit- 
ing the earth and returning, he finds that she is dead, killed 
b}' the enraged mermen. 

* John Reid, of .Cromarty, caught a mermaid, who begged 
to be put in the water, promising to fulfill three wishes. 
He did this, and obtained what he wished. 

Rathlin Island is haunted by a mermaid: 

'"Tis said, at eve, when rude winds sleep, 
And hush'd is every turbid swell, 
A mermaid rises from the deep 
And sweetly tunes her magic shell." 

f In another legend, the daughter of the king of the land 
of youth appears to a j'oung hunter, and he follows her to 
her courts beneath the waves. 

A mermaid is said to have been found in a shark's -belly 
in Ireland, and is minutely described as being of the size of 
a nine-year-old boy, with long hair, olive skin, one thumb, 
webbed fingers, etc. It was thrown into the sea. 

J The Irish feared to kill seals, saying that they were the 

» Hugh JlillPr. — Scenes and Legends, p. 2<>3. 

-fr Croker.— FaiiT I^eifonds of the Scth of Ireland. 

*See Froude.— ■' Short Stories," pi 187. 



souls of those drowned at the flood, and that they can put 
aside their skin and appear in the guise of mortals, but 
cannot return to their watery element, if the skin is stolen. 
Among the many legends of the famous piper, is that 
version in the tale of Maurice Connor, the Irish harper, who 

pipes a mermaid from the waters, but is in time charmed by 
her and accompanies her. So Arion, in danger of sacrifice 
by the Greek crew, plan's first and charms the fish, until he is 
borne ashore to Corinth. The romantic historians of Ireland 
assert that Tuire, or sea-maidens, played about the Milesian 
ships on their way to Ireiand. 


*Breton stories of mermaids are abundant, and fishermen 
say they often see them on the coast. One (a " Siren ") 
caught by a peasant, brought bread, clothing, silver and 
gold, to purchase her freedom, f Brantome says, " Nereids 
were abundant in French waters during the middle ages." 
The most celebrated one was Melusina, whose marriage to 
Raymond of Toulouse, was related above. 

She was said afterwards to haunt the castle on the death 
of any one, becoming thus a banshee. 

From the middle-age treatise of ParacelsusJ comes the 
legend of Undine, whose story is so charmingly told bj' 
Fouque. She is really a water-sprite, who visits her foster- 
parents, and on one occasion sees and loves a wandering 
knight, who marries her, when she becomes the possessor of 
a soul, and various vicissitudes common to mortals await 
her. She once revisits the water-depths, and strange enough, 
returns unharmed, but the knight soon after dies. 

There is a French legend of Poul Dahut, a rock on the 
Breton coast, where the daughter of a sea-king, Dahut, is 
said to sit in rough weather. 

§A Breton tale is told of a ladj', who found a mermaid 
on the beach, and put her into the water. The grateful 
sea-maiden brought her a shell, with a drink in it, telling 
her to give it to her son. Instead, she gave it to her cat, 
which became wise, but malicious, while her son was always 

In Provence, a gold ring is thrown into the water, and 
verses repeated, to charm the water king. 

A negro mermaid was exhibited at St. Germain Fair in 
Paris, in 1758, and a shop in Ostend contained, in 1881, a 
figure said to be a mermaid, a cut of which was shown in 
Harper's Magazine. 

II In an old " History of the Netherlands," we find this 
account of the appearance of one in 1493, at Haarlem: " At 
that time there was a great tempest at sea, with exceeding 
high tides, the which did drown many cities in Friseland 
and Holland; by which tempest there came a sea- woman 
swimming in the Zuyder-Zee, betwixt the towns of Campen 
and Edam, the which, passing b}" the Purmeric, entered 
into the strait of a broken dyke in the Purmermer, where she 

* SJbillot.— Litterature Orale de Haute Bretagne. 

+ Dictionnaire Historique. 

t Treatise on Elementar.r Spirits. 

% Gubematis — ZoologiciU MytUoloery. 

I Baring Gould.-Curioue Mj-ths, of the Uiddle Ages, MeloeiBa. 


remained a long time, and could not find the hole by which 
she entered, for that the breach had been stopped after 
that the tempest had ceased. Some country women and 
their servants who did daily pass the Purmeric, to milk their 
kine in the next pastures, did often see this woman swim- 
ming on the water, whereof at the first they were much 
afraid; but in the end being accustomed to see it very often, 
they viewed it nearer, and at last they resolved to take it if 
they could. Having discovered it, they rowed toward it, 
and drew it out of' the water by force, carrying it in one of 
their barks unto the town of Edam. When she had been 
well washed and cleansed from the sea-moss which was 
grown about her, she was alike unto another woman; she 
was apparalled, and began to accustom herself to ordinary 
meats like unto other mortals; yet she sought still means to 
escape, and to get into the water, but she was straightly 
guarded. They came from fare to see her. Those of Har- 
lem made great sute to them of Edam to have this woman 
by reason of the strangenesse thereof. In the end they 
obtained her, where she did learn to spin, and lived many 
years (some say fifteen), and for the reverence which she 
bare unto the signe of the crosse whereupon she had been 
accustomed, she was buried in the churchyarde. Many per- 
sons worthy of credit have justified in their writings that 
they had scene her in the said towne of Harlem." 

There is no fish-maiden here. . If we are to believe the 
story at all, we may reasonably suspect this to be some out- 
cast like Caspar Hauser, a human being trained to the shal- 
low water of the pond, and placed to live there and be 
adopted by her finder, or we may account it the designed 
fraud of some sharp Hollander. In fact, more careful study 
has demonstrated that the earliest accounts of her only 
described her as a water-woman, and the mermaid myth 
was afterward invented. 

A mermaid is said to have appeared to Antwerp whalers 
and said, — 

* "Sailors, throw out a cask 

So soon you whales shall have." 

\A mermaid prophesied the destruction of Zevenbergen, 
a wicked city of Holland, in 1721, and also of Minden, — 

" Zevenbergen must perish 
And Lobbeken's seven towers still remain.' 

* Landrin.— Les Monstres Marins. 154—276. 
•t Scheie de Vere.— Wonders of the Deep, p. 25. 


* Caspar Schott gives a curious sketch of a Triton with 
human body, arms and head, and fish tail. 

f Ludovicus Vivus relates that in his time a mermaid was 
taken in Holland, and carefully kept for two years; that she 
began to speak, or at least to make a very disagreeable 
noise in imitation of speech; that she found an opportunity, 
and got into the sea. The same writer saj's that Lieuten- 
ant Transmale saw at the time he was sent v/ith some men 
on an expedition in the Bay of Hodudela, as did all the 
people that were with him, in clear daytime, two mermaids, 
the one greater, the other smaller, which they took to be 


man and wife, swimming together, and the hair of their 
heads hung over their neck, and that it appeared between a 
green and grayish color; and that they could see that the)' 
had breasts. They were all above the waists shaped exactlj' 
as a human creature, but from thence downward they 
seemed to go off tapering to a point. About six weeks 
afterward, near the same place, a like appearance was seen 
by upward of fift)' people. 

Holland afterward became celebrated for its mermaids, 
so much so that in that country, and its colonics, the mer- 
maid was deemed a native production. 

*Physica Ciiriosa, l«i2. 
Euysch.— Natural History. 


* Valentin, a curate of Amboyna, published in the Dutch 
tongue a large collection of facts, in support of the exist- 
ence of the mermaid." Many certificates accompanied his 
description, and the beautifully colored figures, in the curi- 
ous work referred to. 

fin 1611 it is said a mermaid or sea-woman was taken 
alive near the island of Boro, which was fifty-nine inches 
long. She lived four days and seven hours and then died, 
as she would not eat anything. She was never heard to 
articulate any noise. One Samuel Falvers, in Amboyna, 
preserved the body for some time, and made out an exact 


description of it, by which it appears that her head was like 
a woman's, properly proportioned, with eyes, nose and 
mouth, only the eyes, which were light blue, seemed to 
differ a little from the human species. The hair, that just 
reached over the neck, appeared of sea-green and grayish 
color. She had breasts, long arms, hands, and all the upper 
parts of the body almost as white as a woman's, but leaning 
somewhat to the sea-gra}'. The lower part of her body ap- 
peared like the hinder part of a fish. 

* Poissons, Ecrivisses et Crabea de divers couleurs et figures extraordinaii'es, 
q'on a trouve dans les lies Moluqnes, Amsterdam, 1717. 

+ B. Gould,— Curious Mj-ths, of the Middle Ages, Melnsina. 


Dr. Kerschur, in one of his scientific reports, relates that 
another mermaid was caught in the Zuyder Zee, and dis- 
sected at Leyden by Professor Peter Pau, and in the same - 
learned report, he makes mention of still another, who was 
found in Denmark, and who was taught to knit, and foretell 
future events. This njermaid had a pretty face, mild, spark- 
ling eyes, a small, tiny nose; long, drooping arms; the fin- 
gers of her hands joined by a cartilage like a goose's foot; 
the breasts round and hard, and the skin covered with white 
shells. He asserted that the mermaids and mermen consti- 
tute a submarine population, which, partaking of the skill 
of the ape and the beaver, build their grottoes of stone in 
places inaccessible to all divers, and where they spread out 
their beds of sand, in which they he, sleep and enjoy their 

The mermaid of the Royal Museum at the Hague was 
seen by Alexandre Dumas, during a visit there. He de- 
scribes it as quite dried and withered, and in color very like 
the head of a Caribbee. Her eyes were shut, her nose flat- 
tened, her lips sticking to the teeth, of which only a few 
remained; her bosom was conspicuous, though sunk; a few 
short hairs stood out upon the head; finally, the lower part 
of the body terminated in a fish's tail. There was no 
opening for dispute. It was really and truUy a siren, a 
mermaid, a sea-nymph. " If, after all this, there shall be 
found those who disbelieve the existence of such creatures 
as mermaids, let them please themselves. I shall give m}'- 
self no more trouble about them." 

* Dimas Bosque, physician to the viceroy of the island 
of Manara, relates in a letter inserted in Bartholdi's " His- 
tory of Asia," that walking one day on the sea-shore with a 
Jesuit father, a party of fishermen came running up to them 
to invite the father to enter their barge, if he wished to be- 
hold a prodigy. There were sixteen fishes with human 
faces in the barge — nine females and seven males — all of 
which the fishermen had just drawn up with a single cast 
of their net. Their teeth were square and close!}' set 
together. The chest was broad and covered with a skin, 
singularl)' white, which left visible the blood-vessels. Their 
ears were elevated like our own, cartilaginous, and covered 
with a fine skin. Their eyes were similar to ours in color, 
shape and position; they were inclosed in their orbiis, 

Landrin. — Les Monstres Marin.s. 271. 


below the forehead, furnished with lids, and did not pos- 
sess, like fishes, different axes ot vision. Their nose only 
differed from the human nose, by its being rather flatter, 
like the negro's, and partially slit up, like a bulldog's. In 
all of them the mouth and lips'were perfectly similar to ours. 

The females had round, full and firm bosoms, and some 
of them appeared to be suckling their young, as when the 
breasts were pressed upon, a very white and delicate milk 
jetted out. Their arms, two cubits in length, and much 
fuller and plumper than the men's, had no joints; their 
hands were joined to the cubitus. Lastly, the lower por- 
tion, beginning with the haunches and thighs, was divided 
into a double tail, as we see in ordinary fishes. 

* German tales of the mermaid proper are not numerous. 
Goethe's "Waterman" is a pretty version of a Danish tale 
of a mermaid. A merman visits the church, and weds a 
maiden who falls in love with him. He brings a ship for 
her, and they embark, — 

" But when they were out in the midst of the sound, 
Down went they all in the deep profound." 

In German legend, there is a queen of the sea, Merreimne 
(Norse Marmenille, mer-woman). She was fished up from 
the sea in a net, but the terrified fishermen hastily threw 
her overboard. 

Three men are said to have caught a mermaid at Wen- 
ingstede, in Schleswick-Holstein, but they put her back in 
the water, on hearing her cries. It is there believed that 
they foretell a storm, when seen about the bov/s of a ship. 
A " Waterman " is said to have stopped a ship at sea, and 
to have refused to let it go until the queen, a passenger 
thereon, should descend to his palace, where a midwife was 

Goethe's ballad, " Sir Peter of Stauffen," depicts the 
power of the mermaid's song; and there is another old 
ballad, where a waterman 

" Drags her down to his ocean cave 
The gentle Amelie." 

The Lorelei, who is fabled to sit on the rocks in the 
Rhine, and lure boats to destruction, is celebrated in song 
by Heine and Doenninger, and mermaids are represented 
in Wagner's Rheingold. 

' Baring Gould.— Curious Mj-th£, ot the Middle Ages. 


An old German legend is told of a certain countess, who 
was seized while bathing, by mermaids and men, and 
stripped of her jewels. She expressed a great desire to 
recover her wedding-ring, at least, and on the seventh day 
thereafter, it was found in the stomach of a fish, caught 
near the spot where she had bathed. 

*A Hamburg skipper, Jan Schmidt, saw a mermaid in 
1610, while at sea near Bayonne, just at daylight. He 
knew she would drag some one down, so had his men 
repulse her with long poles and pikes. When she found 
them prepared for her, she uttered a piercing cry, and dove 
down into the sea. 

At Nidden, in West Prussia, a mermaid sits on the rocks 
and deco3's persons to her, but they are drowned ere they 
reach her. 

Frisians say there are but seven mermaids, and that a 
man devoting himself to one of them, will suffer death, 
should he ever abandon her. 

In an Esthonian tale, a fisherman sees a daughter of the 
"Mother of the Seas," falls in love with her, and marries 
her. She leaves him on ever}' Thursda}', and, on watching 
her, he finds she has a fish-tail. 

fin the Finnish Epic, the "Hostess of the Sea," rises at 

the sound of Wainamolnen's harp (the wind), and combs 

her long locks by the seaside. That hero catches a mer- 

. maid, but as he is about to cut her open and eat her, she 


Wallachian, Wendic, and Russian stories of water- 
sprites are told, some of whom assume the shape of birds, 
and fly through the air. Many of these are a kind of a 
cross between mermaids and sirens. 

Mermaids are said to have been seen near Portugal in 
1531, and Spanish and Italian stories of them are recorded. 

J Lamia is a water-maiden in modern Greece, who is 
represented as malicious, greedy, and sensual, dragging 
people into the water. Mermaids are not, however, so 
abundant in southern waters, as in the colder seas of the 

§ Chinese say mermaids are of the shape of demons, and 
are ruled by a harp}', NUkira, who, when the heavens were 
torn, mended them, but left a hole in the northwest, whence 

* Schmidt.— Seeraan's Sagen und Schiffer Mfirchen. 
+ Kaleva\a.— Le Due's Tranplation. 
f Halm.— Gn-icjhishe Jiarchen. 
iDenDys.— l<"olk-lore of Cbina. 


emerge the cold winds. They call mermaids sea-women 
(hai-nli), and numerous stories are told of them. One is 
said to have been captured at Nanchow in i8co, and many 
\saw her; and another was found at Niishan. A cabinet 
councillor is said to have found one on the beach in Corea, 
and carried her to sea, putting her in it. 

* In the Loochoo Islands also, one is said to have lived 
with a native ten years, but finally she climbed a tree, and 
disappeared. Here we have a nymph of the sky-sea. 

Japan is, however, the headquarters of these coy maidens 
of the sea. Here an old Dutch navigator obtained the first 
"veritable" mermaid, and they may still be procured of 
ingenious natives. Numbers have been shown in museums, 
etc., deftly made by uniting a child's head to a fish's body. 
At Bartholomew fair, in 1825, there was exhibited a mer- 
maid, obtained by a Dutch ship from Japan, and the Otto- 
man minister to Paris, in 1840, related that he had seen a 
veritable sea-woman, brought from Eastern seas. 

A Japanese legend relates that a mermaid prophesied an 

f Ottawa Indians believed in the existence of a mermaid 
with two fish-like extremities, and called her daughter of 
the flood. Pascagoula Indians had traditions of a race 
emerging from the sea, who worshiped a mermaid. 

An Ottawa tale is told of a certain Wassaur conveyed by 
a spirit-maiden to the "Spirit of the Sand Dunes," in Lake 

X B. Gould tells a tale of an Ottawa chieftain who saw a 
beautiful woman arise from the water. She wished to have 
a human soul, but could only have one by marrying a mor- 

The tribe drove her away, and the result was a war of 
extermination with another tribe (Adirondacks), and finally 
one w'as left, who was carried down by the water-maiden 
at St. Anthony's Falls. 

These maidens have often been seen on our shores. 

§ Captain John Smith_saw, in 1614, off an island in the 
West Indies, a mermaid, with the upper part of the body 
perfectly resembling a woman. Slie was swimming about 
with all possible grace when he descried her near the shore. 
Her large ej-es, rather too round, her finely-shaped nose, 

* Conway.— DemonologT. II, 218. 

+ Gould.— Myths o( the Jliddle Ages, Melaeina. 

t Gould.— Curious Myths, p. TM. 

§ Landrin.— Les Monstres Marius. 270. 


somewhat short, it is true, her well-formed ears, rather 
too long, however, made her a very agreeable person, and 
her long green hair imparted to her an original character 
by no means unattractive. Unfortunately the beautiful 
swimmer made a slip, and Captain Smith, who had already 
begun to experience the first effects of love, discovered 
that from below the waist the woman gave way to the fish. 

*Jocelyn also tells of them: "One Mr. Miller, relates of 
a triton or mermaid, which he saw in Casco bay ; the gen- 
tleman was a great fowler, and used to go out with a 
small boat or canoe, and fetching a compass about a small 
island, there being many islands in the bay, he encoun- 
tered with a triton, who, laying his hands upon the sides 
of the canoe, had one of them chopped off with a hatchet 
by Mr. Miller, which was in all respects like the hands of 
a man; the triton presently sunk, dyeing the water with 
his purple blood, and was no more seen." 

The following account from a newspaper, of a similar 
occurrence, is given, — 

"John Dilercy related a curious story of some American 
fishermen. One night, it being a perfect calm, they 
observed a mermaid coming into their vessel, and fearing 
it to be some mischievous fish, in the fright of one of 
them, cut the creature's hand off with a hatchet, when 
it sank immediately, but soon came up again and 
gave a deep sigh as one feeling pain. The hand was 
fouad to have five fingers and nails like a woman's hand. " 

The Richmond Dispatch, of July, i88i, published an ac- 
count of a negro woman who said that she, being pursued 
to death by some one in Cuba, jumped overboard, and 
was, after drifting for hours, rescued by a band of mer- 
maids, who took her to their sea-caverns, and finall}^ 
placed her on board a vessel bound for New Orleans. 

In a dail}' (Boston) paper of October 31, 1881, is con- 
tained the following account of a mermaid captured in 
Aspinwall Bay and brought to New Orleans, — 

"This wonder of the deep is in a fine state of preserva- 
tion. The head and body of a woman are very plainly and 
distinctly marked. The features of the face, eyes, nose, 
mouth, teeth, arms, breasts and hair are those of a human 
being. The hair on its head is of a pale, silky blonde, sev- 
ei'al inches in length. The arms terminate in claws closely 

• Jocelj-n'5 Vojagee, 1673, p. 23. 


resembling an eagle's talons, instead of fingers with nails. 
From the waist up, the resemblance to a woman is perfect, 
and from the waist down, the body is exactly the same as 
the ordinary mullet of our waters, with its scales, fins and 
tail perfect. Many old fishermen and amateur anglers who 
have seen it pronounce it unlike any fish they have ever 
seen. Scientists and savants alike are ' all at sea ' respecting 
it, and say that if the mermaid be indeed a fabulous creat- 
ure, they cannot class this strange comer from the blue 

Torquemada says that Mexican legends of the mermaid 
related that she, the tortoise and the whale, formed a bridge 
of their bodies for a man to pass the House of the Sun. 

* Herbert Smith says there are stories on the lower 
Amazon, of water-maidens with long black hair, who sing 
and entice young men into the water. Uangaia, King of 
the Fishes, assumes many shapes, and entices women into 
the waters. 

f Moravian missionaries in South America brought from 
thence wonderful stories of mermen and mermaids, some 
having seen these beings, with brown skin and long hair, in 
the water. The natives feared them and would not harm 
them, fearing disaster. 

Negroes of Surinam told English officers, in i8oi, that 
they often saw mermaids playing in the river on moonlight 

The tradition of the mermaid will long survive in nauti- 
cal nomenclature. English fishermen call the frog-fish 
Meermaid, although no reference to the mermaid is in- 
tended. The Sfongia palmata is called the mermaid's glove, 
and the outer covering of shark's eggs, as well as the hollow 
root of the sea-weed Fucus polyschides, are named the mer- 
maid's purse. 

Having thus traced the history of the mermaid, and 
given an account of her in all corners of the earth, we are 
prepared to believe her origin not an unnatural one, but a 
development of ideas originating in antiquity, and fostered 
during an age of credulity and superstition. Her origin 
is undoubtedly rnythical, but various causes natural and 
legendary have assisted the myth in its growth. As before 
said, these maidens are originally cloud-nymphs. This an- 

» Brazil. 

+ Scheie do Vere.— Wonden of the Deep, p. 22. 


cestry has already been partially traced in the present 
chapter. Analogies between the mermaids and these an- 
cient mythical beings have been given. Like Proteus, they 
may (at least the water-sprites can) change their forms at 
will. This is an attribute of their primitive form, that of 
the Apsaras, or " formless ones," whose cloud bodies arose 
from the vaporous deep. Like Nereus, they are possessed of 
great wisdom. This is also an attribute of all the primitive 
beings who arose from the deep, as Oannes, Hea, Viracocha, 
etc. Like the ancient sea-deities, they are benificent, since 
they possess great wealth. This latter characteristic is al- 
leged of all the sea beings. The hoard of the Niflungs, the 
golden palace of Neptune, and of GEg^r, the Rheingold, 
and other instances of this wealth, will be remembered If 
they are malicious, or diabolic, they derive such a temper- 
ament from Nick, or from Typhon, from their ancestors the 
Sirens, or their prototypes, the harpies. The bad omen 
derived from their appearance may be traced at least to 
Melusinar, who, after her death, becomes a banshee or evil 
apparition. Perhaps the Christian influence in the degra- 
dation of heathen deities may have aided in establishing 
a diabolic character. The song of the mermaid, by which 
she often lures to destruction listening mortals, is but the 
dangerous lay of the Sirens, or the sweet attractions of 
Circe. *The Myth is ancient, as Hylas was so charmed in 
the Argonautic vo3'ages. 

This la}' is none other, as we have seen, than the sweet 
strains of Orpheus' harp, and here perhaps is the origin of 
the mermaid's comb, doubtless the ancient Ij're. Being thus 
always malevolent, when seen at sea, and ominous in ap- 
pearance, she would be naturally connected with the weather, 
a significant fact corroborating her cloud-parentage. The 
fish-tail peculiar to the mermaid is doubtless derived pri- 
marily from the Assyrian Oannes, and we have seen 
Tritons and Nereids thus represented. The Sirens, anciently 
birds, became, later, beauteous maidens, and were finally 
endowed with the scaly appendage. 

f Price has thus embodied these ideas: " The Nereids of 
antiquity, the daughters of the sea, born sfeers, are evidently 
the same with the mermaids of the British and Northern 
shores; the habitations of both are fixed in crystal caves or 
coral palaces, beneath the waters of the ocean; and the}' 

' Ap. Ehodius.— " Argonauties," 1, 131. 

+ Introduction to Walton's History of Poetry. 


are alike distinguished for their partiality to the human 
race, and their prophetic power in disclosing the events of 
futurity. The Naiads differ only in name from the Nixen of 
Germany and Scandinavian Nissan, or the water-elves of 
our countrymen .iElfric." 

Philologists find, however, that even this difference does 
not exist, since from a Sanskrit word S)ia, to flow, are de- 
rived the names for Naiad, Nereid, Nymph, Nick, etc. 

These beings require some recompense for their services, 
which represents the ancient sacrifices to the water-deities. 
The priestly influence is again visible in the notion that this 
gift is baptism, or salvation. The myth of marriage to mor- 
tals is of more difficult interpretation, and is closely con- 
nected with the legends of their having the power of chang- 
ing their form, and of the possession of some mysterious 
garment whereby the change is effected. This garment was 
originally a swan's plumage, but is sometimes a peculiar 
cap, a seal-skin, or even a girdle. The swan story is first 
told in the Kaiha Saj-it Sagatha. 

* Svidatta saw a swan in the Ganges, plunged in, and 
followed the maiden to her palace beneath the waves. The 
story is common to man)'^ lands, and is even known among 
the Mongols and Tartars. f.iEsch)'lus says the Phorkides 
were swan-shaped. In the Hymn to Apollo, the clouds are 
swan-nymphs, attendant on Phoebus, the sun. " Here, then, 
we have the groundwork of all those tales which speak of 
men as wedded to fairies, nymphs, nixies, mermaids, swan- 
maidens or other supernatural beings." " From the thought 
which regarded the cloud as an eagle or swan, it was easy 
to pass to the idea that the birds were beautiful maidens; 
and hence that they could at will, or on the ending of the 
enchantment, assume their human form." "Then would 
follow the myth that the only wa}' to capture these beings 
was to seize their garments of swan's or eagle's plumes, 
without which they were powerless." 

But while we may acknowledge the mythical origin of 
these beings, there are many natural causes whose influence 
aided in the formation and perpetuation of the mermaid 
myth. Much of the testimony recorded above is too cir- 
cumstantial to be accounted a mere trick of the imagination, 
or morbid fancy of the writers. 

Species of existing sea-animals have certainly aided in 

•Gould.— Myths of the Middle Ages. 
t Cox Myth. Ai. Nat, H. TJCL 


perpetuating these many stories of maidens of the sea. The 
dugong and manatee especially have a human look, having 
large breasts and short, arm-like fins. * Scoresby says the 
front view of a young walrus without tusks resembles a hu- 
man face. Speaking of their habit of rearing the head above 
the water, he says, " I have myself seen a sea-horse in such 
a position, and under such circumstances, that it required 
very little stretch of the imagination to mistake it for a hu- 
man being; so like, indeed, was it, that the surgeon of the 
ship actually reported to me his having seen a man with his 
head just appearing above the water." French and Ger- 
man heraldic signs represent mermaids with one or two 

The French call the maLnaXce. femme tnarine, and the Dutch 
name the dugong mannetje (little man) and Baardanetzee 
(little beard). Professor Owen thinks these animals are the 
mermaids of fable. 

In Oriental legend, the dugong is the mermaid of the 
Indian ocean, and their tears are pearls, and attract persons 
to them. Stories of mermaids singing or talking may also 
have arisen from hearing the cries of the seal, said by navi- 
gators to resemble those of an infant. The well-known 
friendliness of that animal to man, and its gentleness, would 
favor the current ideas concerning mermaids. Thus, while 
the mythical idea grew up in a superstitious age, the reports 
of mariners of these strange animals to a people equally ig- 
norant in science, would foster and preserve the growths of 
the myths. 

f Scheie de Vere, in alluding to the accounts given of 
mermaids by the Moravian missionaries, in South America, 
conjectures these mermaids to be the Canthoeirus, a race of 
savages who almost live in the waters of the great rivers of 
the Amazon valley, often attack boats, and are greatly feared 
by the natives. Here would be a natural element in the 
growth of the mermaid myth. \ Hone tells a story of a 
certain Vega, who, in 1675, leaped into the sea and was 
drawn ashore four years afterwards, covered with scales. He 
had forgotten his language, but was recognized by his fam- 
ily. He lived several years afterwards, but finally disap- 
peared. § Tieck pronounces the story authentic. 


+ Wonders of the Deep. 

% Hone.-Table Book, Vol. U, p. 188. 

SDas Waseerman, 183L 


But a far more famous story was that of Cola Pesce. 
This has been current in Italy, says * Pitre, for more than 
five hundred years. An account of this wonderful being 
is given in many old chronicles, and versions of the tale are 
found in various parts of Italy. The legend is further 
perpetuated by. a great number of popular poems in vari- 
ous languages, concerning a diver who was lost in the sea. 
The main features of the legend are as follows: — Cola or 
Niccolo Pesce lived in Naples during the reign of 
Frederick II. 

" From his infancy he took pleasure onlyin the water, 
and his mother, irritated at this, condemned him to live 
there. He lived with the fish, appeared to sailors, and 
predicted storms." 

Popular traditions further relates that the king em- 
ployed him in satisfying his many whims. One day, 
wishing to know how deep the sea was, he cast a cannon 
ball into it, and asked Cola to bring it'back. "Your Maj- 
esty," said he, "I shall be lost, I shall never return; but^f 
you insist, I must try." He went down until he found 
himself in a garden, in an open space; where he' could not 
rise again, and there he died. It is said that he, like 
Jonah and Hiawatha, traveled in the belly of a fish, from 
place to place. In Mezzacamoni street in Naples, abas- 
relief in the wall of a house is shown as that of Niccolo 
Pesce, concerning whom there are many other stories. 

These, along with the other phantoms of the deep, no 
longer appear to the intelligent mariner of this scientific 
age. Yet in remote corners, and to skeptical vision, such 
apparitions still are recorded. 

But in spite of the occasional reports of such visions, we 
may reasonably conclude with the Swedish poet, Stagneli, 
that, — 

"The Neck no more upon the river sings, 
And no mermaid to bleach her linen plays 
Upon the waves in the wild solar rays." 

• Archivio dei Trad. Popolari, Vol. 1 &8. 

t Walter Ma pes, Nagse CurialanL. Gerrase of Tilbury, Otia Imperiala, &o., &o. 

H Scritti Ital., 9, 669: 

§ B. Croce in M^lnsine I., Feb. 6, 1886. 




"Canst thou draw out leviathan with a hook?" 

Joh, xxxvi. 

"Of that sea-snake, tremendous curled, 
Whose monstrous circle girds the world. " 

Scott. — Lay of tlu Last Minstrel, vi. 

' God quickened in the seas and in the rivers. 
So many fishes of so many features. 
That in the waters we may see all creatures, 
Even all that on the earth are to be found." 

U BARTAS but echoed the 
ideas of his own and of pre- 
■ ceding ages. The strange 
I ^ catalogue of fishes which he 
proceeds to give, elsewhere 
repeated, by no means ex- 
hausted the fauna of the sea, 
according to the ideas of antiquity, 
and the beliefs of the middle ages. 
We have seen the waters of the 
globe peopled with deities, with 
demons, and with human or semi- 
human beings and sprites; with 
giants, dwarfs, elves, and trolls. It 
would have been strange, if the 
same fertile imaginations that fig- 
^^^^^^:; ured these beings, to correspond with similar 
~ creations on the land, had not placed in the 
waters other wonders, the parallels of similar land-animals 
commonly supposed to exist. 

Thus, then, as there had been imagined, throughout all 
antiquity, land-monsters, dragons, and serpents of pro- 
digious size, we may expect to find in the ocean, the scene 
of so much myster}- and dread, animals of a similar char- 
acter, proofs of whose fancied existence is evidenced by the 

»Du Bartas.— Divine Weeks and Works. 



names, sea-elephant (morse) Macrorhinus proboscidens, sea- 
horse (walrus), sea-swallow (flying-fish), sea-leopard {Sten- 
orhynchus Leofardus), sea-bear (Otarie), sea-cow (Manatee) 
sea-dragon (Coitus), sea-lion (Flaforhynchus), sea-wolf {^Ana- 
rhynchus lupus), and sea-hog (porpoise), terms still existing 
in marine nomenclature. 

* I have already described the strange half-fish monsters 
that were said to have appeared from time to time from 
the Persian Gulf. There were other monsters in those 
seas at that time, f Berosus says there were seen in Chal- 
dean waters, monsters with four-fold bodies of dogs, but 
with fish-tails, and men with fish-tails, horses with fish-tails, 
and serpents with fish-heads and fins. Omoroka, a mon- 
ster-woman, presided over these. 

Monsters of the deep are alluded to in" many places in 
the Bible. JA whole chapter of Job is devoted to the Levi- 
athan. Commentators have devoted much time to it, but 
have never agreed as to whether it is intended to describe 
the crocodile, the behemoth, the dragon, or the serpent. 
The subject will be alluded to again in the present chapter. 
Other monstrous sea-animals are spoken of, but are plainly 

§ A Talmudic tale assures us that a fish came ashore in 
the Mediterranean, so large that the people of sixty cities 
ate from, and those of sixty more salted down some of its 
flesh, and from one of its eyes, three hundred measures of 
oil were obtained. 

Classical authority has bequeathed us many monsters. 
Such, according to the mythographers, were the aquatic 
■demons who attacked Andromeda, sent by Neptune to 
devour her, in revenge for a boastful speech. This monster, 
the Pistris, was paralleled by that which attacked Hesione,|| 
from which Hercules delivered her by jumping down the 
monster's throat, whence he emerged, after three days' con- 
finement, by hacking his way out. But Perseus and Her- 
cules were Sun-gods, and these monsters are therefore 
understood to be clouds sent from t' ; sea, dispersed by the 
sun's power. Other monsters were known in antiquity.** 
The Chilon had a man's head, and lived on its own humors. 

* See Chapter II. 

-f Cory. — Ancient Fraerments. 

t Job, Clmpter XLI. 

S Jones.— Credulities, p. 53. 

t Cox.— Aryan Mythology, p. 293. 

♦♦Scheie de Vere.— Wonders of the Deep. p.KX 


The Balena was like a whale, but was cruel to its mate. 
The Dies was a fish with -two wings and two legs, living 
only a day. The Hippocampus was half-horse, half-fish, 
and covered with scales. 

* Aristotle tells of a gigantic squid, or calmar, ten feet 
four inches long. Trebius sa3's one came ashore at Carteia, 
and ate salt meats. It climbed a high fence, was attacked 
by dogs, and only subdued with great difficulty. Its head 
was as big as a cask, its arms thirty feet long, and its-body 
estimated at seven hundred pounds. jElian says one de- 
stroyed warehouses in Spain, and was killed with difficulty. 
Pliny says a great mollusk, called Arbas, had such long 
arms that it could not enter Gibraltar Straits without ground- 
ing. Strange monsters attended Amphitrite and Poseidon. 

In Hindoo legend, Krishna slew a monster that lived at 
the bottom of the sea. Pali legend tells of a gigantic crab 
that lived there also.f Hanamaut slew a monster and was 
devoured by another, liberating himself by distending his 
body and bursting the monster open. Here is doubtless 
another cloud-myth, as Hanamaut is son of the winds. 
Varuna, god of the watery element was attended by animals 
having the heads of antelopes, and the tails of fish. Like 
Krishna and Apollo, Indus, Vishnu, Ahura Mazda, Feridun, 
Sigurd, and others slew monsters of the deep. 

But the accounts of sea-monsters became more circum- 
stantial and more numerous in the middle ages, as men 
became better acquainted with the great outer sea. Many 
of these fabulous creatures are borrowed from antiquity. 
J "The middle ages did not await the dream of Olaus to 
possess marine monsters. Antiquity had abundantly pro- 
vided them, and in joining to these conscientiousl)- those of 
the bible, they peopled the depths of the ocean with a 
thousand creatures. The Leviathan cleaved with his gigantic 
fins the eastern seas, the § Physeter, that Solin had borrowed 
from Pliny, rejecting so great an abundance of water that it 
could sink a ship easily, and, as a vast water-sprite, play 
with its debris," were among these. 

Perhaps the earliest and most marvelous accounts of 
these aquatic giants came from the. Arabs — the earliest 
mediaeval navigators. || El Kazwini gives us several ac- 

♦ Landrin. — Les Monstres Marins, p. 26. 
+ Eamayana. — Wiison'e Trans. 

t Denys de Montfort.— MoUusques, in Buffon's Natural History. 
i Pliny.— Natural History, Vol. IX, p. 3. 


counts of these: " In the sea of China is a fish more than 
three hundred cubits long; fear is entertained for the 
ship on account of it; and when the people know of its 
passing by, they call out, and beat with wood, that it may 
flee at their noises; when it raiseth its fin, it is like an 
enormous sail." He sa)^s further, that an enormous fish in 
the same waters beats and sinks ships with its tail, and that 
another has an owl's face. "As to the sea-tortoise, it is very 
enormous, so that the people of the ship imagine it to be 
an island. One of the merchants relates as follows regard- 
ing it. 'We found in the sea an island, elevated above the 
water, having upon it green plants, and we went forth and 
dug holes for fire to cook. Whereupon the island moved, 
and the sailors said, ' Come ye, to your places, for it is a 
tortoise, and the heat of the fire hath burnt it, lest it carry 
you away.' 'By reason of its bod}',' said he, 'it was as 
though it were an island, and earth collected upon its back 
in the length of time, so that it became like land, and pro- 
duced plants. ' " 'Another chronicler. El Wardee, corrobo- 
rates these statements of El Kazwini, and it is doubtless to 
their account that we owe the tales of monsters given in 
that veracious chronicle, the Arabian Nights Entertainments. 
Sinbad encountered the island-fish in his third voyage. He 
relates that they were becalmed near a little green island, and 
many landed on it, he among the number.* " We had not 
long landed, when, on a sudden, the island trembled, and 
shook us terribly. The people on board saw our situation, 
and called out to us to re-embark directly, as what we had 
taken for an island, was only the back of a prodigious fish." 

Again he says: " I saw fishes of a hundred and two hun- 
dred cubits long; far from being dangerous, they fly from 
the least noise. I saw also other fishes, about a cubit long, 
which had heads like owls." 

A monster, who has a human body with shark's head, 
while on shore, and is a shark in the sea, figures in the story 
Al Habib. Another monster fish opposed his progress, but 
was subdued by a magic charm. 

f El Masudi says there are whales in the sea of Zeudi 
44,500 cubits long. J A Jewish work, the Bara Bathra, says 
a ship was three days in passing from the tail to the head 
of a whale. 

* Leine's Arabian Nights. — Sinbad's Third Voyage. 

+ Golden Meadows, ch. IH- 

t Landrin.— Les Monstres Marins, p. 150. 

i Eisenmonger, Entdecker, Jndentham, 399. 



El Wardee, Sinbad and El ,Kazwini all tell of fish the 
shape of a cow, and of one the shape of a camel. * Ibn Ba- 
tuta says that he saw a fish, whose head was as large as a 
mountain, and whose eyes were the size of two great doors. 
Arab cosmographers told of the island Kalken, where men 
lived, with the heads of marine monsters upon their shoul- 

Christian writers related marvels equally great. Many 
of them have described the Bishop-fish and Monk-fish, — 



+ "And which I most admire, 
The mitred bishop and the cowled friar; 
Of which examples, but a few years since 
Were shown the Norway and Polonian prince.'' 

J Rondelet gives a more explicit description of them, " In 
our time there has been caught in Norway, after a great 
tempest, an ocean monster, to which all who saw it incon- 
tinently affixed, the name of the monk; for it had a man's 

* " Voyages." 

+ Du Bartas.— Divine Weeks and Works. 

+ Universum Piscum Historia (1J»4), in Landrin, p. 288. 


face, rude and ungraceful, with a bald, shining head; on the 
shoulders, something like a monk's hood; long winglets, in- 
stead of arms; the extremity of the body terminated in a tail." 

Rondelet says it was caught and taken to the King of 
Poland, but made vehement signs to be put in the water, 
and when this was done, plunged in and disappeared. 

* De Vere says Holland originated the stories of the 
bishop-fish and monk-fish. In 1305, a sea-knight was caught 
here, covered with a complete suit of armor. It died in 
three weeks. A tradition of this curious fish existed in 
later times, f Buchan says, "Among the prodigies of this 
time (874), they reckoned those sea-fishes then appearing, 
which are seldom seen, and after long intervals of time. 
But they never appear but in shoals, nor without some unlucky 
presage. The common people call them Monachi-marini, i.-e., 

Probably a tradition of these notions remains in the name 
given the Squatina Angelus — of " Sea-monk," and the " Ca- 
puchin " (Stemmalopus Cristatus). 

Scandinavia abounded in these monsters. J Gesner tells 
01 the Island-fish on which mariners landed. Olaus Mag- 
nus, in his chapter on "Anchors Fastened on Whales' Backs," 
says, " The whale hath upon his skin a superficies like the 
gravel that is by the seaside, so that ofttimes, when he rais- 
eth his back above the water, sailors take it to be nothing 
else than an island, and land upon it, and they strike piles 
into it, and fasten them to their ships; they kindle fires 
upon it to boil their meat, until at length the whale, feeling 
the fire, dives down suddenly into the depths, and draws 
both men and ship after him unless the anchor breaks." 

§ Another old work gives us curious monsters. The 
Physeter has head and neck like a horse, and ejects water 
from a tube in his head. The Alcetre had a head and snout 
like a boar, and spouted water from a tube. 

Ariosto represents Astolfo as being carried on the back 
of an enormous whale, to the island of Fata Alcuna, — 

I"Among the rest, a mighty whale is view'd, 
The greatest, sure, that ever swam the flood, 
And as he lay unmov'd, by looks deceiv'd 
We all the monster for an isle believ'd." 

* Scheie de Vere.— Wonders of the Deep. 
+ History of Scotland, in Mangin, p. 359. 
tDe Piscura U5S7) in Landrin, p. 148. 

§ Wolfhart. — Prodigiorum ac URtentorum Chronica. Q. by Wood, ** Atlan- 
tic, "June, 1884. 

B Hoole's Ariosto, VI, p. 260. 


* Francheval, in the " Bestiare d'Amour," tells us, " So 
there is had a kind of whale, which is so great that when it 
has its back above the water, the sailors who see it think it 
an island, because its skin is rough like sea-sand, so that 
the sailors land on it as if it were an isle, and lodge and 
dwell on it eight or fifteen days, cooking their meat on the 
whale's back. But when it at last feels the fire, it carries 
itself and the others beneath the waves." 

f Pere Fournier also tells us of a great monster, " In the 
reign of Philip II., king of Spain, there appeared one in the 
ocean, very different from others, for it appeared partly 
above the water, having two great wings, and sailing like a 
ship. Some vessel having seen it, and having broken one 
wing with a cannon-ball, this monster entered with great 
swiftness the Strait of Gibraltar, with horrible cries, and fin- 
ally came ashore at Valentia, where it was found dead. Its 
skull was so large that seven men could enter into it, and a 
man on horseback enter its throat; two dead men were 
found in its stomach. The jaw-bone, seventeen feet long, 
is still in the Escurial." 

The island-fish, under the name of the Kraken, became 
celebrated in northern annals, and is the Leviathan of 

" Him haply slumbering on the Norway foam, 
The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff 
Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell, 
With fixed anchor in his scaly rind. 
Moors by his side." 

§ Pontoppidan tells us: " Norwegian fishermen, without 
the least contradiction in their accounts, say that when they 
sail several miles out to sea, particularlj- during the hottest 
days of the year, the sea suddenly seems to become shal- 
lower lUnder the boats, and if they drop the lead, instead 
of finding eighty or one hundred fathoms' depth, it often 
happens that they only find thirty. It is a sea-serpent 
which thus interposes itself between the depths and the 
waves. Accustomed to this phenomenon, the fishermen 
cast their nets, assured that there will be in those parts an 
abundance of fish, especiall)' of cod and, ling, and draw 
them in richly loaded. But if the depth of the water 

♦Bestiare d'Amour. Q. by Landrin, p, 149. 

+ " Hjdrographie." Q. by Landrin, p. 148. 

t Paradise Lost. • 

§ Natural History of :N"orway. Q. in Jones' B. B. O^ p. 254. 


continues to decrease, and if this movable and accidental 
shoal rises higher, the fishertnen have no time to lose; it is 
the serpent awakening and moving, rising up to tespire the 
air and extend its huge folds in the sea. The fishermen 
ply their oars lustily, and when at a safe distance they see, 
in fact, the monster, which covers a mile and a half of 
ocean with the upper half of its body. . . . Firom the 
floating mass issue numerous spikes or shining horns, 
which rear themselves like masts covered by their yards; 
these are the arms of the Kraken." 

* Eric Falkendorf, Bishop of Nidros, wrote to Pope Leo 
X. (in 1520), a letter on this subject, in which he alleged 
that he landed on one of these Krakens, and said mass, 
after which it sank into the sea. 

We have the following account of it from the voyage of 
St. Brandan: "But at the last they went upon an ylonde, 
weaying (waving) to them they had been safe, and made 
thereon a fyre to dresse theyr dyner, but Saynt Brandan 
abode styll in the shyppe. And when the fyre was hote, 
and the meet nigh soden, then the ylonde began to move; 
whereof the monkes were aferde, and fledde anon to the 
shyppe, and left the fyre and meet behynde them, arid 
mervayled sore of the movying. And Saynt Brandan com- 
forted them and sayd that it was a grete fiss, he named 
Jasconye, whiche laboureth nyght and daye to put his tayle 
in his mouth, but for gretness he may not." 

Saint Maclon is represented i'n legend as having per- 
formed a feat similar to that of the Bishop of Nidros, a 
whale obligingly coming up, and, after allowing him to 
perform mass on his back, sinking into the depths. 

f Olaus Wormsius (1643) says the Kraken is "an island 
rather than a beast, and is immortal," in which latter state- 
ment he is supported by Olaus Magnus, Bartholin, and 
other writers of his own and succeeding tirhes. 

The Kraken was the subject of a mediaeval Anglo-Saxon 
poem. JA " Kraken " is said to have stranded in the Gulf 
of Newangen, Norway, in 1680, and the odor of its decay- 
ing carcass tainted the air for miles around. Many govern- 
ment officers visited it, and deposed as to its presence. The 
sea at length washed away its remains. 

* Scheie de Vera. — Wonders of the Deep, p. 43. Landrin, p. 29. 
-frLandrin. — Les Monstres Marins, p. 29. 

i Landrin. — Les Monstreg Marins, p. 39. 


*Denys Montfort gives a picture of a Kraken. He says 
the Danes call them Anker-trolls. 

Bartholemeus says there are two Krakens, existing from 
the beginning of the world, and their number will not 

j- Scott says the Kraken was believed to haunt the waters 
about the Shetland and Orkney Islands. "The Kraken, 
that hugest of living things, was still supposed to cumber 
the recesses of the Northern Ocean; and often, when some 
fog-bank covered the sea at a distance, the eye of the 
experienced boatman saw the horns of the monstrous 
leviathan, welking and waving amidst the wreath of mist, 
and bore away with all press of oar and sail, lest the sudden 
suction, occasioned by the sudden sinking of the monstrous 
mass to the bottom, should drag within the grasp of its 
multifarious feelers his own frail skiff." 

"Some years since, a large object was seen in the beau- 
tiful bay of Scalloway, in Zetland, so much, in vulgar 
opinion, resembling the Kraken, that, though it might be 
distinguished for several days, yet the hardy boatmen 
shuddered to approach it, for fear of being drawn down 
by the suction supposed to attend its sinking." Fishermen 
averred they often saw its horns protruding rnast-high 
from the sea. The bones of an animal stranded in 1800, 
supposed to be a Kraken, were found to be those of a shark. 

J Many chapels on the coast of France have ex-voto 
pictures of contests of ships with the Kraken, and a large 
one exists at Notre Dame de la Garde, at Marseilles. 

§In 1834, Captain Neill, of the ship "Robertson," of 
Greenock, saw and took a sketch of a great monster, which 
appeared like a vessel on her beam-ends. On approaching 
nearer, its head and snout were plainly seen, its eye looking 
like a large hole. Its head above water was some twelve 
feet in length; its width some twenty-five feet. The snout 
was fifty feet long. 

Many of these accounts of the appearance of the Island - 
fish, or the Kraken, seem to refer to the cuttle-fish, or 
polyp. Curious stories are related of its appearance. 

II Captain John Magnus Dens told De Montfort that an 
enormous polyp appeared in- the ocean, and, stretching its 

* Landrin, op. cit, p. 34. 

+ Notes to ■■' Pirate. 

t Landrin. — Lea Monstres Marins, 88. 

8 Jones. — Broad, Broad Ocean, p. 255. 

EMoUusques in Butfon.— Hist. Nat. 


arms above the bulwarks of the ship, took ten men off a 
stage on which (it being calm) they were working, outside 
the vessel. It then seized the shrouds, pinning to them 
two more men. It was harpooned several times, but 
finally escaped, with the loss of a limb nearly twenty-five 
feet long. 

In the Chapel of St. Thomas .at St. Malo, France, there 
is an ex-voto painting of a ship in the act of being dragged 
down by an enormous cuttle-fish. This ship, according to 
the legend, was attacked by this monster, on the African 
coast, and was only rid of its foe by using hatchets vigor- 
ously, and by calling on St. Thomas for aid. 

Fishermen in the East Indies are said to have been so 
beset by these animals, and are obliged often to cut off 
their limbs to get rid of them. 

*In 1861, the French corvette Alecto, Lieutenant Bouyer, 
encountered at sea, between Teneriffe and Madeira, a mon- 
strous polyp, which was reported as being from sixteen to 
eighteen feet in length, not including its arms. A drawing 
was made, which was shown to the French Academy, repre- 
senting the animal. Its posterior portion was secured, and 
brought to France. 

f Holcroft says the sailors, in one of his voyages, told 
him many stories of appearances of the Kraken near Green- 
land and on the Scottish coast. 

J Wood thinks De Montfort's picture not overdrawn, and 
says the Kraken is an acknowledged fact. 

Other stories of sea-monsters were told. Olaus Magnus 
is responsible for many tales of these. § In his chapter 
"On Many Kinds of Whales," he tells us: "Some are hairy, 
and of four acres in bigness; the acre is two hundred and 
forty feet long and one hundred and twenty broad." An- 
other kind " hath eyes so large that fifteen men maj^ sit in 
the room of each of them, and sometimes twenty or more; 
his horns are six or seven feet long, and he hath two 
hundred and fifty on each eye, as hard as a horn, that he 
can stir stiff or gentle, either before or behind." He 
further tells of fish with horrible shape, some with square 
black heads, ten or twelve cubits long, with huge e3-es, ten 
cubits in circumference, having a red flaming iris, looking 
like a lamp at night, and with a hairy head, the hair much 

* Manein.— Mysteries of the Ocean, 28S, 
+ Memories. 

t J. G. Wood, Atlantic Monthly, June, 1884. 
8 In Jones' Broad, Broad Ocean. 260- 


like goose-feathers. They easily drag down the strongest 
ships. He likewise says: "Round the shores of the North 
Sea are many caverns of unfathomable depth, whence issue 
monsters out of the deep." *He tells a strange story of a 
monster like the sea-elephant, that came ashore on the 
beach, where fishermen caught it "by raising the fat along 
its tail, and attaching to it strong ropes, which they 
fastened to rocks and trees on the shore. Then they waked 
up the huge animal by throwing stones at it with a sling, 
and compelled it to retire to the water, leaving its skin 

Ariosto and Boiardo relate many tales of maidens bound 
and left on the sea-shore to be devoured by sea-monsters. 
Orca is the monster spoken of. This orca is certainly none 
other than our Ogre, the degraded sea-god Oegir, famous 
in Northern annals, f Angelina is thus exposed, and is de- 
livered by Rinaldo, who jumps into the monster's mouth, 
and fixes his anchor in its terrible jaws. He then wounds 
it grievously, and anchors it to the shore, until it expires. 
Boiardo represents Lucina so bound, and rescued by two 

J Pongo, a terrible monster, half tiger, and half shark, is 
said to have so completely devasted a part of Sicily, that 
all the inhabitants within a radius of twenty miles were de- 

A mediaeval French poem, by Philippe de Thaun, de- 
scribes an attack of a monster which he calls Cetus. 

Procopius says a gigantic sea monster destroyed many 
persons before he was killed. 

§ Geoffrey sa)'s Morvidun, a Welsh king, was swallowed 
b}' a monster who came out of the Irish sea. 

Beowulf destroyed a sea monster by the aid of magic. 

I Lacroix gives a cut of a sea dog, covered with scales, 
having a dog's body and a fish's tail. 

** Spalding says a sea monster appeared in the river Don, 
in 1635, with the head of a dog, arms, body and hands of a 
man, and tail of a fish. 

Paul Egede says, " The 6th of July we saw a monster, 
which raised so high on the waves that its head reached to 

* Landrin.— Les Monstres Marins, p. 249. 

+ Hoole"s Ariosto. Bk. IX. 

i Brewer. — Reader't: Hand Book. 

gCk>nway.— Demonolog-y. Vol. I, p. 368. 

I LacrOLX, frdin Dyalo^ue des Creatures, 1482. 

*»Nordhoff.— Harper's Mag., Vol. XIV. 


the mainsail. Instead of fins, it had great ears hanging 
down like \Vings. It had scales on its body, which ended 
like a serpent." 

* Icelandic legends tell of a monster called there Skrimsi, 
living in a fiord at Grimsey, who bit off the heads of seals, 
and wrecked ships. 

f An account of one of these, seen by a farmer, gives it 
as thirty-six feet long, a succession of humps. An old ac- 
count of one seen in 1345, says, "At some times it seemed 
like a great island, and at other times there appeared 
humps, several hundred fathoms apart, with water between 

JArnanson says one appeared in 1749, thirty feet to forty 
feet long, with a hump on its back. Grimsey fishermen say 
it came ashore in 1819, and left traces. 

§ These animal-monsters have often the shapes of men, 
sometimes they are like a horse without a tail, and some 
have a shelly coat of mail. Leaden bullets will not hurt it. 
Sometimes it rolls in the dust, and people are often made 
mad by its screams. 

We read in Smith's travels (1750), "On sailing along the 
coast of Corsica and Sardinia, June 9th, we saw a sea mon- 
ster, which appeared several times the same day, spouting 
water from its nose to a great height. It is called Caldelion, 
and is said to appear frequently before a storm. A storm 
came on Monday, which lasted four days." 

The traditions of sea monsters existed until after the 
great maritime discoveries. The early charts have monsters, 
huge whales, and serpents portrayed on them. || Camoens 
speaks of 

" The distant seas 
Where only monsters do abide." 

Shakespeare speaks twice of sea monsters, but his mean- 
ing is very vague.** The hippopotamus is by some sup- 
posed to be meant, as it was represented as unnatural and 
ungrateful to its progenitors. Others think the whale is 

In the " Prayse and Reporte of Maister Martyne For- 

» Maurer.— Ifilandische Sagen. 34. 

+ Gould. — Sceues and Sagas of Iceland. 

t Icelandic Legends. 

6 Powell and Magnusson.— Icelandic Legends. 

I Lnsiad.— Mickles' Trans. 

•* King Lear.— Dyer Folk-lore of Shakespeare, 501. 


bisher's Vo}^age to Meta Incognita " (1578), we read that the 
crew found " a strange fish dead, that had been cast from 
the sea on the shore, who had a boane in his head like an 
Unicorne." This is evidently a sword-fish. 

Two notices of exhibitions of strange fish are given bj' 
Jones, one *" The Description of a Rare or Rather Most 
Monstrous Fishe, taken on the east coast of Holland the 
17th of November, Anno, 1566," and the other, "A moste 
true and marvellous strange wonder, the lyke hathe seldom 
been scene, of XVII monstrous fishes taken in Suffolke, at 
Donnam Brydge, within a myle of Ipswiche, the XV daye of 
October, in the yeare of our Lorde God, 1568." These are 
described bj' Stow. 

A reminiscence of such exhibitions are given in Shaks- 
peare, in The Tempest,f and the same act alludes to sea mon- 

J Rondelet gives a curious figure of a sea-lion, with scaled 
body and four feet. He says he was told at Rome that one 
appeared after the death of Pope Paul III. 

A monster was seen from the "Osborne" yacht in June, 
1877, like a turtle, with a head six feet in diameter, long 
neck, and two fins, fifteen feet long on each side. § Wilson 
believes it to have been a tape fish, specimens of which, 
sixty feet long, have been captured. 

As the further progress of maritime discovery displa3'ed 
these unknown seas to the gaze of the world, it was found 
that these monsters did not exist there, or, as Addison puts 
it, II "The sea is generally filled with monsters when there 
are no fleets upon it." 

**A popular legend reports that a sort of Kraken lives on 
Portland shoals, dragging ships down with its long and 
spider-like arms. 

ff A monster was found periodically to come out of Lough 
Derg, the Irish Purgatory, and devastate the country, until 
Finn McCail, a legendary hero, killed it, when its blood 
reddened the lake, thus giving it its name (Red Lake). 
Another tradition gives St. Patrick the honor of subduing 
this monster, by chaining it to the bottom of the lake. Such 

+ Act II, scene 2. 

tHJstoire des Foissons, 1554. 

§ A- Wilson. — Sea Serpents of Science. 

R Spectator, 27. 

** Notes and Queries. 

+t Kennedy. — Fireside . Stories of Ireland. 


monsters are common in legend, and such are the Wantley 
Dragon, the Lambton Worm, the Dragon subdued by St. 
George — doubtless nature myths — the hero being solar, and 
the monster aqueous. 

*A mortster is said to have appeared in the Elbe at Ham- 
burg, in i'6t5, with a horse's body, and a pig's head, with 
four great tushes in his mouth. Another, with a stag's body 
and horns, appeared in 1638. An old harpooner went in 
search of it with his boat, but when he struck it, the electric 
fluid from its body passed through the harpoon line, para- 
lyzing him, and killing him. 

Depositions of the captain and surgeon of the British 
Steamship Nestor, set forth that a monster like a great 
turtle, with head twenty feet long, body forty-five feet and 
tail one hundred and fifty feet long, striped black and 
yellow, was seen in September, 1877, in Malacca Straits, in 

According to a Russian tale, a prince killed a water 
monster, who lived in a river, agitating the water for seven 
versts by his motion, f A monster pike figures in Lithuanian 
and Finnish legends. 

A monster shaped like a calf, is said to appear in Ostro 
Wittchen lake, West Prussia. It is said to be the embodi- 
ment of the souls of the drowned. 

JTarascon gets its name from a Rhone monster, whose 
overthrow was, not many years since, celebrated by the 
" Fete de la Tarasque." 

Legends of sea-monsters in other countries are related. 
Utah Lake and Bear Lake in Utah, are popularly said to be 
inhabited by monsters. A sea-monster is said to have been 
caught on our coast in 1869, thirty feet long, and being part 
beast and part fish. It was figured in Harper's Weekly. 
Another pretended sea-monster was exhibited at Wood's 
Museum, in New York, and the following account is the 
latest, of the appearance of these monsters: §" On the i6th of 
last October, when the vessel was forty-six miles south of 
Alaska, an object was perceived in the distance whose pro- 
portions and shape indicated it to be a monster sea-lion. A 
boat was immediately lowered. As the distance was decreased 
between the boat and the huge animal, they became con- 
vinced that it was the famed sea-serpent. When they came 

* Simrock.— Deutsche Sagen. . 

+ Ralston-— Bussian i"oli:-lore, p. 26T. 

t Brewer. — Headers' Hand-Bpok. 

e Johnson.— Mate of Whaler Alaska la San Francisco Ohronicl&,'lSSi, 


within a few hundred yards, the monster made a dash for 
the boat, striking out its immense tail against the craft. 
Several of the occupants were precipitated into the water, 
and were rescued with difficultj-. A harpoon and lance 
were fired into the body of the beast, and it disappeared be- 
neath the surface. Half an hour later it reappeared, float- 
ing on the water, dead. It was secured with ropes and 
towed to the vessel, and hoisted on the deck. There the 
capture was seen to be a villainous-looking thing. Its head 
closely resembled that of an alligator, while the body re- 
sembled that of a lizard. It measured thirty-three feet in 
length, the tail being nine feet long. The tail was cut off 
and stuffed and brought to this city, and is now on exhibi- 

* Jourdan says a sea-monster in the shape of a man, was 
seen near the Bermudas during great tempests. 

Indian tribes had legends of aquatic monsters. Dr. 
Brinton relates the following story of a monster in the Con- 
necticut river. 

"While Aba and Jona were thus drifting down the stream 
in their birch-bark canoe, and supposed they were safe from 
all jealous interference, Walo, the deadly enemy of all true 
lovers, was lurking under the alders which fringed Deep 
Hole. As the canoe approached, he dove into the depths, 
where he lay silent until the canoe came to a pause in the 
quiet waters of the pool, and the lovers, lost to all but their 
happiness, were indulging in mutual caresses; Walo then 
rose suddenly to the surface, and, opening his enormous 
jaws, swallowed the canoe and its occupants at a gulp, and 
disappeared in the blackness of the unfathomable pool." 

f Marquette says a monster with a fish's tail was figured 
on the rocks at a certain point in the Mississippi. Henne- 
pin says a number of men were drowned here (at St. 
Anthony's Falls), and Indians sacrificed in passing, to this 

Jin Algic legend, Hiawatha caught a fish so large that 
its oil and fat filled a large lake, and fed all animals. 

Swan tells a legend of Shoalwater Bay, of a certain man 
who was swallowed by a sea-monster, and who was cut out 
of him, but after he was dead, and a stone image on the 
rocks near the spot represents him. 

* Discovery of the Bermudas. 

+ Brinton.— Myths of the New World. 
t Schoolcraft.— Algic Legends. 

-ist^ .'V- irf 

i s' \ 




* Indians of California have a tradition that a monster 
was caught in their seines, while fishing at sea, but was 
afterwards lost, while towing him through a whirlpool. 
Haidah Indians believe in a sea-monster, Tchinnose. 

f Esquimaux believe in sea-monsters, that live at the 
bottom of the sea, aiid in great spiders, and monstrous 
gulls, which endanger the sailor's life. All priests of the 
higher order are supposed to serve a novitiate as a sea- 

I Father Kircher tells of the following legend of a sea- 
cow: "There appears in the province of Kwangtung, a kind 
of fish which is called Swimming Cow (Vache qui Nage). This 
beast sometimes emerges from its element, and herds with 
the other cattle in order to fight them, and to give them 
blows with its horns, the same as if it had always abode 
with them, and had never done otherwise than they. But 
since it happens that this animal loses the hardness of its 
horns, some time after it has remained on the land, it is 
obliged to return to the water, to recover what it had lost, in 
refurnishing to these same horns the hardness which they 
had lost." 

The Japanese represented that a monstrous cod-fish 
stretched its length under all their islands. This fish, Jish- 
in-uno, seven hundred miles long, was formerly thought to 
cause the tides, as well as convulsions of the land. 

§A sea-monster was the traditional ancestor of the 
emperors of Japan. Kappa is a monster, with a monkey's 
head and body, and tortoise's claws. He seizes children 
and drags them into the water. He is fond of cucumbers, 
and these are often thrown into the water, to propitiate him 
when boys go in bathing. Griffis was warned not to bathe 
in a certain place in Fukin, as he would be dragged down 
by this monster. A woman was accidentally spilled out of 
a " jin-ricksha" into a pond, and drowned. It was said that 
Kappa got her. People in Tokio say they often see Kappa 
in the river, and one is said to have dragged a man down 
in the typhoon of July 6, 1874. 

In Siamese belief, there are giant crabs and great scor- 
pions in th£ sea, who drag ships down. 

In New Zealand waters, Tipua, a great monster, lives at 

•Bancroft.— Native Races, III, 377. 
+ Kink.— Tales and Traditions of the Esquimaux. 
tLa Chine Iliustre, p. 271. in I^andrin, p. 251. 
SGrlfEis.- The Mikado's Elngdom. 


the bottom of the sea. *Taniwha is a river-monster, who 
drags people into the water, f Fijians say a monster clam 
and a huge octopus live in ocean depths. 

J The Barotse, an African tribe, fear a monster in the 
Lecambi river, who is said to drag canoes down, and they 
feared to pass a spot, where he was said to lie, after dark. 
Prayers and exorcisms were used to control him. 

§ Cata Wangol was an Australian aquatic monster, with 
long teeth and large eyes. Stones found on the beach 
were its eggs. 

Of all the monsters of the deep, the sea-serpent has re- 
ceived the most attention, and accounts of its appearance are 
constantly appearing, while thousands implicitly believe in 
its existence. 

Accounts of a serpent-like monster living in the deep 
were given very early in the history of mankind. {| Akkad 
inscriptions allude to the "serpent that beats the sea." 
** Typhon, the opponent of the sun, in his under-world jour- 
ney at night, is shown in Egyptian sculptures as a serpent, 

Many commentators think a serpent is meant by the de- 
scription of the Leviathan in the Scriptures.ff In Amos IX. 
we read, "And though they be hid from my sight at the bot- 
tom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he 
shall bite them." 

Pliny and Valerius Maximus tell us of monster serpents 
living in the sea. The former says serpents three hundred 
feet long came out of the Ganges. JJ He also says a mon- 
strous serpent, able to seize and draw down an elephant, 
was seen in the Indian ocean. Solinus says the sea-serpent 
inhabits the Eastern sea, and is twenty cubits long. §§ Pal- 
ladius, speaking of the Odonto-tyrannus of the Ganges, says 
it "swallowed an elephant without chewing it." 

Sea-serpents are spoken of in ancient Hindoo books. 
Vishnu and Nava Yama rides one, and, in later "writings, 
Bhimas also. 

Stories of them multiplied during the latter part of the 
middle ages. Du Cange quotes a Latin MSS., where the 

»H. Taylor.— New Zealand, p. 48. 

+ Gill.— Jlyths and Songs of the South Pacific, 146. 

^Livingstone. — ^Travels in .^L^'ica. 

8 Wilkes.— Exploring Expedition, 254. 

1 " Eecords of the Past," III. p. 129. 

*^RosellinL — I Monumenti del Egitto. 

++See Isaiah XXVn, 6; Job ±p and XLI. 

ttLandrin, p. 112. 

8S Landrin.— Les Monstres Marins, p. lis. 


devil is called Hydros, or water-serpent. This is Typhon 
of old. * El Kazwini says that monstrous serpents came 
out of the China sea, to devour elephants. 

But it is to Norse accounts that we must turn for more 
circumstantial accounts of the sea-serpent, fin Eddaic 
mythology, Jormundgandr, the great Midgard serpent, 
brother of Hel, the northern Pluto, lies at the bottom of the 
seas, forever trying to bite his own tail, and is so large that 
he encircles the world. When he heaves up the coils of his 
immense body, storms arise. At the destruction of the 
world, he will burst over the land, and infect the very air. 
Thor, the northern Hercules, is said to have caught this ser- 
pent, and to have struck its head off with his hammer. 


Mediaeval Norse traditions represent the seas as full of 
serpents, formerly living on land, and only taking to the sea 
after a visitation of the Black Death. Olaus Magnus thus 
describes the sea-serpent: J "All seamen say there is a sea- 
serpent two hundred feet long, and twenty feet thick, who 
comes out at night, to devour cattle. It has long black hair 
hanging down from its head, and flaming eyes, with sharp 
scales on its body." He says there is a " worm," on the 
coast of Norwa}^, over forty feet long, yet hardly so thick as 
the arm of a child. It is harmless, except that its skin is 
poisonous to the touch. 

* Marvels of Creation. 

+ Thorpe. — Northern Mj-thology. 

* History of the Goths, 1658. 


* Pontoppidan describes the sea-serpent as being six 
hundred feet long; its body so large that its folds appeared 
like a string of hogsheads on the water. The earlier editions 
of his work give illustrations of this monster, seen rising 
mast-high from the water. They were called Soe-armen. 
In 1350, two are said to have appeared in the Fokso, and 
two years afterwards, one was stranded on the coast. 

Modern Norse accounts repeat these descriptions. A sea- 
serpent was fabled to appear in the Lister, to announce 
some great calamity, such as the death of a king, f Simi- 
larly, an ill-omened messenger of like shape, whose body 
was as thick as a calf, and whose tail was two ells long, ap- 
peared at Svansvikso; and one was said to arise from the 
sea at BoUarvatr, in Sweden. There is a folk-tale that a 
sea-serpent lies coiled about the great sunken bell at Hammer, 
in Norway. 

At Mios, serpents occasionally were seen, only to vanish 
immediately. One, brilliant in appearance, lay coiled on a 
rock, where it was killed. Tradition reports that its body 
lay there for many years.J Nicholas Lamius, a minister at 
Loudon, saw on the 6th of June, 1650, a great sea-serpent 
come out of the sea, during an inundation. It had lived in 
the rivers Mios and Branz, and crawled into the fields from 
the banks of the latter. It advanced like the long masts of 
a ship, overthrowing trees and huts in its progress. Its 
whistles and cries made all shudder who heard them, and 
the fish disappeared or died. Many fishermen of Odale 
were so terrified that they renounced their calling, and did 
not dare even to walk the beaches. Its head was like a great 
cask, its body great in proportion. 

The Archbishop of Bergen says he learned from sailors, 
who traversed northern seas, that the sea-serpent would 
cast himself in the tracks of vessels, rising suddenly and 
seizing one of the frightened crew or passengers as a, pre5^ 
Pichot gives us further details: "The movement of the 
sea-serpent is very swift, the Norwegian poets comparing it 
tij the flight of a rapid arrow. When fishermen see it at 
the surface, they row fast, toward the sun, the monster not 
being able to see them when his head is turned toward that 
luminary. It is said that he sometimes throws himself into 
. a circle about a ship, and then they find themselves sur- 

* Mangin. — Mj'steries of tlie Ocean, p. 297. 

+ Thorpe.— Northern Mythology, Vol. II. p. 28. 

t Horpelius.— '■ Mundus Mirabilis." 


rounded on all sides. Experience of the sailors has taught 
them not row toward the open places left by the folds of his 
body, for then he will move on and so overturn the bark. 
It is safer to steer for his head, for it is probable that the 
animal will plunge in and disappear, above all when one 
can spread on the deck the essence of musk. So the boats 
do when thej' cannot avoid it. But when thej- discover it 
at a distance, they proceed to the shore or the mouth of 
some creek inaccessible to the formidable enemj-." 

* Thorpe saj's it can hardl)- be denied that great snakes 
are sometimes seen on the northern coasts, and gives man)' 
instances. Commander Laurence de Ferry gives his sworn 
testimony that he saw a serpent in August, 1749, near 
Molder. It had a head like a horse, rising some two feet 
from the water, and was gray in color with deep brown 
mouth, black eyes, and long white mane about its neck. 
Its coils were about a foot apart, and it was moving verj' 

Rev. P. W. Demboll, in 1845, obtained the testimon)- of 
several persons who had seen the serpent. Lars Jorenson 
saw one at Smolen from six to seven feet long, and two 
feet in diameter, with its head as large as a ten-gallon cask. 
Three men of Molde saw a serpent some forty to fifty feet 
long in the same year. 

fA sea-serpent, Turenfax, living in an island in the 
ocean, and devouring a maiden each year, appears in a 

JArnanson tells an Icelandic legend of a great serpent 
that grew from a heath-worm by the power of gold, until 
it filled the sea. Its appearance predicted great calamities. 

§ Ruysch, a Dutch naturalist, figures and describes a sea- 
serpent, said by him to have been found and preser\'ed. 
He represents it as being twenty-six to thirty feet long, and 
says it changes its skin. 

II Landrin says a mariner, F. Legnat, wrecked and aban- 
doned on a desert rock in 1708, killed a sea-serpent. 

** Bellforest gives minute accounts of the sea-serpent 
He says it clings to barks and small ships, striking men off 
the deck with its tail, and devouring them. Should the 

» Landrin.— Les Monstres Marins, p. IIS. 

tSnipp, Smipp. Snorson. 

t Icelandic Folk-lore. 

SHistoire NHturelle (171S); in Landrin. 112. 

1 Landrin.— Lea Monstres Marins, 117, note. 

** OosmoarraDhie. 


ship prove too great for its powers, it was accustomed to 
draw it toward the shore, and, when the crew tried to 
escape, it seized them. It is described as having a wolf- 
like head and scaly body. 

A serpent was seen from the French ship Le Havre, 
near the Azores, and one is figured in Le Monde Illustr^, of 
October 8, 1881, as having been recently seen at sea. 

Serpents of the sea figure in Sicilian stories, where they 
bring great gifts, and possess wonderful power. 

* In a Basque story, a sea-serpent tells the master-mariner 
to get a ship at any price, then embarks in it, saving it from 
a storm, and eventually proving to be a king's son. 

A monster serpent is believed to live in the Rhine. 

f In a Russian story, " The Water-snake," serpents in the 
land become men and women beneath the waves, and one 
gets a wife, by getting possession of her shift while she 

I Scott, speaking of Shetland and Orkney fishermen, says: 
"The sea-snake was also known, which, arising out of the 
depths of the ocean, stretches to the skies his enormous 
neck, covered with a mane like that of a war-horse, and 
with his broad, glittering eyes, raised mast-head high, looks 
out, as it seems, for plunder or for victims." " The author 
knew a mariner, of some reputation in his class, vouch for 
having seen the celebrated sea-serpent. It appeared, so far 
as could be guessed, to be about a hundred feet along, with 
the wild mane and fiery' eyes which old writers ascribe to 
the monster; but it is not unlikely the spectator might, in 
the doubting light, be deceived by a good Norway log on 
the water." 

§ Hibbert describes them as seen by Shetlanders, and 
says that the skeleton of one that came ashore was sent to 
the Edinburgh Museum. This was found to be the remains 
of a shark. 

Rev. McLean, pastor of a Hebrides parish, describes, 

in a letter to the V/ernerian Society, a sea-serpent seen in 
1808, while he was in a boat some two miles from the land. 
The serpent followed him, but he finall)' escaped to a rock. 
It had a large head and a slender neck, with no fins, and 
tapered towards its tail. It moved by undulations up and 
down. " Its length might be seventy to eighty feet." 

'Webster. — Basque Legends. 

+ Halston.— Russian Folk-lore, p. 116. 

t Notes to " Pirate." 

§ Shetland Islands. 


Marryat makes Huckabuk say, in the "Pasha," "Nor 
has the animal been seen before or since, except by the 
Americans, who have much better eyes than the people of 
Europe boast of." But this statement is not borne out by 
the accounts given of its appearance.* The surgeon of an 
English ship, Davidson, testified that he saw one in India in 
1829. A Dr. Barclay saw the body of one some months 
later, it being about fifty feet long, and eighteen feet in cir- 
cumference, with a mane on its neck, and fins on its shoul- 

In 1867, the officers of the steam sloop " Halifax,'' saw 
one eighty feet long; and in 1848, a serpent was seen near 
the African coast b}' the officers of the " Daedalus," where 
captain McQuhae made and published sketches of it.f Ac- 
counts of this monster forwarded to the Admiralty, stated 
that it passed close under the vessel's counter, so as to be 
plainly seen bj' all. swimming rapidly. It was in sight 
some twenty minutes; was some sixteen inches in diameter, 
with no fins, but having a sort of mane on its neck. Its head 
and shoulders were some four feet in the air, its dark brown 
body on the surface. 

A sea-snake was seen by a Captain Steele, in 1852, and 
an account of another is given in the London Times of Feb- 
ruary s, 1857. 

The officers of the ship Castilian saw one near St. Helena 
in 1857. Captain Harrington says, J " While myself and 
officers were standing on the lee side of the poop, looking 
towards the island, we were startled b}' the sight of a huge 
marine animal, which reared its head out of the water with- 
in twenty yards of the ship, when it suddenly disappeared 
for about half a minute, and then made its appearance in 
the same manner again, showing us distinctly its neck and 
head, about ten or twelve feet out of the water. The diam- 
eter of the head was about seven or eight feet in the largest 
part, with a tuft of loose skin circling it about two feet from 
the top. The water was discolored for several hundred feet 
from its head, so much so that my impression was that the 
ship was in broken water: . . but the second appearance 
completely dispelled these fears, and assured us it was a 
monster of extraordinary length, which appeared to be 
moving slowly towards the land. . . . From what we saw 

'Jones.— Broad, Broad Ocean, p. 256. 

+ London Illustrated News, October 28, 1848. 

±.lone.<5. — Rrond, Rrofid Oftfyin. n 2.*i7_ 


from the deck, we conclude that it must have been over 
two hundred feet long; ... it was of a dark color about 
the head, and was covered with several white spots." 

* The captain, officers and crew of the bark Pauline of 
London, also made deposition before a magistrate in 1875, 
that they saw, in July, an immense serpent twined about a 
large sperm whale, that whirled the latter over as if it had 
been a toy, and finally carried it down to the sea-depths. 
Again, later, by a few days, they saw a similar monster, 
skimming along the sea, head and neck out of the water 
several feet. 

Another serpent was seen on the loth of August, 1881, 
by the Dowle}', an English ship. 

Sea-serpents have always been a treasured fancy of 
American sailors, manj' of whom, like Whittier's skipper 

" Had seen the sea-snake's awful form." 

He appeared as early as 1639. Josselyn says: f'They 
told me of a sea-serpent or snake, that lay coiled upon a rock 
at Cape Ann; a boat passing by with English on board, and 
two Indians, they would have shot the serpent, but the 
Indians warned them, sajang that if he were not killed out- 
right, they would all be in danger of their lives." 

The New England coast became a famous habitat of the 
strange monster.J; One was seen in 1809 by Rev. W. Cum- 
mings, in Penobscot ba}'. This one was some fifteen rods 
off, and was si.xty feet long. § Six years previously, three 
officers carried out into Halifax bay in a boat, saw one from 
eighty to one hundred feet long, with a black body, streaked 
with white. In 1781, a Captain Little encountered one in 
Broad Bay, some forty-five to fifty feet in length, and fifteen 
inches in diameter. In 181 7, it again appeared in Massachu- 
setts bay. A Mr. Nash testifies that it was some seventy to 
one hundred -feet long, in eight portions or bunches, each 
the size of a barrel, and rough and dark in appearance, with 
its tongue, that protruded some two feet, shaped like a 
harpoon. It was swimming some twelve to fourteen miles 
per hour, playing around in circles. Some ten depositions 
of its appearance were made. Several persons also saw one 
the same year, in Long Island sound. 

In 1819, man)' witnesses of its appearance near Marble- 

* Scheie de Vere.— Wonders of the Deep. 

+ Josselyn's Voj-ages, in J[ai=s. Historical Coll., Vol. XXTTT, p. 228. 

tBaljson.— History of Gloucest<'r. 

5 C- Nordhofl.— Harper's Monthly, Vol. XIV. 


head, and at Nahant, gave their testimony. *Mr. N. D. 
Chase, of Lynn, writes: "At this time he was about £ 
quarter of a mile away; but the water was so smooth thai 
I could plainly see his head, and the motion of his body. 
Later in the day I saw him again, off ' Red Rock.' He 
then passed along about one hundred feet from where 1 
stood, with his head aboiit two feet out of the water, and his 
speed was about the ordinary one of a common steamer. 
What I saw of his length was from fifty to sixty feet. It 
was very difficult to count the bunches or humps upon his 
back, as, by the undulating motion, they did not all appeal 
at once. The color of his skin was dark." Five reliable 
persons were with him at the time. One of these, Mr. 
Cabot, writes: " M}"^ attention was suddenly arrested by an 
object emerging from the water, at the distance of about 
one hundred or one hundred and fifty 3'ards, which gave tc 
my mind, at the first glance, the idea of a horse's head. It was 
elevated about two feet from the water, and he depressed it 
gradually to within six or eight inches, as he moved along. 
His bunches appeared to me not altogether uniform in size. 
I felt persuaded by this examination that he could not be 
less than eighty feet long." 

f James Prince, Esq., saj's: "His head appeared about 
three feet above the water. I counted thirteen bunches on 
his back. ... I had seven distinct views of him from 
the Long Beach (so called), and at some of them the animal 
was not more than a hundred }'ards distant." Other cred- 
itable witnesses stated the same. John Marston, a seaman, 
deposed upon oath that he saw, "within two or three 
hundred yards of the shore, a singular-looking fish in 
the form of a serpent." He was an old fisherman, and 
declared his belief that it was the veritable sea-serpent. 
I Drake tells us that whaling- vessels were fitted out, boats 
cruised after the serpent, and the revenue cutter's double- 
shotted nets were spread to catch the "fish," and one vent- 
uresome hunter fired a load of duck-shot into its e5'e. The 
Boston Linnaean Societj^ sent ten members to see it, who 
reported: "The monster was from eighty to ninety feet 
long, his head usually carried about two feet above water; 
of a dull brown color; the body with thirt}' or more pro- 
tuberances, compared by some to four-gallon kegs, by 
others to a string of buoys," etc. 

♦I/etter to C. H. Holder, in Lippincott's Magazine. 
+ C. H. Holder.— Lippincott's Alajrazir.e. 
tS. A. Drake.— Legends of Mew England. 


\ Brainard wrote an ode to the sea-serpent, in which he 
says, — 

" But go not to Nahant, lest men should swear 
You are a great deal bigger than you are." 

In 1830, a sea-serpent was seen by three men near the 
mouth of the Kennebec river, in Maine. Another was 
reported on our coasts in i860, and the mate of the sloop 
" Concord " * informed the Linnaean Society that he saw 
one in 1863, rising seven feet out of the water, its body being 
in sections, like a chain of casks. A recent account of the 
appearance of the serpent is given in this newspaper 
extract, — 

"While the boats of the bark Hope On, commanded by 
Captain Seymour, were on the watch for whales off the 
Pearl Islands, between foi ty and fifty miles from Panama, 
the water broke, a short distance away, and Captain Sey- 
mour made ready for a whale. But a head like that of a 
horse rose from the water, and then dived. The creature 
was seen by all the boat's crew. Captain Seymour de- 
scribes the animal as about twenty feet long, with a hand- 
some, horse-like head, with two unicorn-shaped horns pro- 
truding from it. The creature had four legs, or double- 
jointed fins, a bronzed hide, profusely speckled with large 
black spots, and a tail which appeared to be divided into 
two parts. It was seen on two different days, and, if 
whales had not been about at the time, an effort would have 
been made to catch it. Captain Seymour and his officers 
agree that the creature is peculiar to the locality, and that 
it could easily be killed with lances and guns. It is im- 
portant to notice that officers of the Pacific Mail Company 
state that the)' have seen the animal on several occasions, 
but not so closely as did officers and men of the Hope On." 

This story is credited by an authority as able as R. A. 
Proctor, the English astronomer. 

An officer long employed on the coast survey told me of 
the appearance of a serpent off Cape Cod. At first, it 
stood straight up out of the water, like a hogshead; then, 
on its re -appearance, some three hundred feet away, about 
thirty feet of its bod\' was seen out of the water, rising 
angularly from it, and moving with great speed. 

The sea-serpent has appeared in Asiatic waters. Chinese 

*MaBgin.— Mysteries of the Ocean, 360. 


Stories are told of them. *Denys tells a tradition of one so 
large that a ship was a whole day in sailing round it. 

A dragon-snake is thought to live in Kwangtung lake. 
Another, one hundred and twenty years old, appeared off 
Chapoo. It was one hundred feet long and twenty wide, 
showing ten feet of its length above the water. Giles tells 
a tale of a sea-serpent, that towered like a hill' out of the 
water. A serpent is said to live in the Chien Tang. Chen 
was the governor of the province, who, unable entirely to 
stop the leak in the dyke, threw himself into the lake. 
Chinese reports claim the capture of a serpent three hun- 
dred feet long, during the present century. 

Stories of sea-serpents and water-snakes occur in modern 
Hindoo folk-lore.f 

They also occur in the traditions of our American In- 
dians. Hundreds of water-snakes opposed Hiawatha's 
progress. J Creeks, Algonquins, and Iroquois believed that 
a monstrous serpent lived in the great lakes, and broke the 
ice, if irritated. Iroquois legends also tell of a horned ser- 
pent, who lived in the lake, and was slain by a thunderbolt. 
Ojibways sacnficed to a water-serpent, and Onondagas had 
a legend of a great horned water-snake. Huron magicians 
pretended that a great serpent, Angoub, dwelt in seas, lakes, 
and rivers. § The channel of the Fox river was tradition- 
ally formed by a gpreat serpent who passed from the Mis- 
sissippi to the lakes. 

II Piutes said a great demon-snake abode in Pyramid 
lake, and caused the wind-storms that sweep its surface. 
The Pueblos believed in a great water-snake, whose body 
was as large as a man's. 

In the sculptured front of Uxmal palace, is figured an 
animal, half fish, half serpent, covered with feathers. 

Araucanian Indians believe in a large water-serpent. **A 
great fierce serpent, Yaca-mana, is believed to lurk in the 
Amazon. Indians approach no nearer than a hundred yards 
in their canoes, and blow horns to frighten the monster. 
Smith says the Brazilian Indians, believe in another serpent 
monster, the " Mother of Waters " (Mai d' Agoa), and say 
she drinks the water from evaporated ponds. ffVerne 

* Folk-lore of China. 

+ Lal Behari Day.— Folk-lore of Bengal, 

t Brinton.— Myths of the New World. 

§ Schoolcraft.— Algic Legends. 

II Bancroft.- Native Races, VoL III, 135. 

** Herbert Smith.— Brazil. 

++ Giant Ho ft, Chapter XI. 


says it is called Minhocao, and the Amaeon rises when it 
plunges in. 

Notwithstanding the mythical element evidently present in 
the formation of these legends of sea-monsters and serpents 
— notwithstanding the evident readiness in the middle ages 
to find animals in the mysterious ocean similar to those on 
land, and the consequent incentive to the imagination tOi 
people unknown waters with monsters — in spite of the exr 
aggerations of seamen and landsmen, there is apparently 
some foundation for the belief in the existence of such . 
beings. I have alluded to the sun:imyths, that evidently, 
have had a share in originating the idea of devouring mon- 
sters. Mythologists generally agree that the many maiden- 
devouring monsters, man-swallowing fish, and rain-causing 
dragons, are but the vaporous clouds arising from the sea, 
and that the hero, be he Perseus, Apollo, Hercules, Sigurd, 
Rinaldo or St. George, is the sun himself, who vanquishes 
the cloud-monster. This element was doubtless assisted by., 
the representations of monsters accompanying Poseidon and , 
the other lords of the deep, which became common in lateri 
Greek art. Originally nature-myths, definite form was thus 
given them by the artist, who but transfers them to the stone. 
There is an obvious tendency in the human mind to ex- 
aggerate wonders. This has been especially true with re- 
gard to those wonders found in the great ocean, where a 
limitless horizon sets no bounds to thought, and where the 
smallest object, often by atmospheric causes, will easily, be 
magnified. Thus it must have been with the Island-fish, 
and the other giant fish, accounts of which have been given. 
It is improbable that sailors ever landed on such a fish, mis- 
taking it for an island. Doubtless larger whales existed in 
the ocean, before the days of whaling fleets. It is well known , 
that shells and sea-weed grow on the skin of the whale, and, 
this would aid in the deception. 

As to the Kraken stories, and those, of giant squids, and 
cuttle-fish, who shall say that they are not without some- 
foundation? The great Linnaeus, in the first editions of his 
work, avows his belief in tTie Kraken. *Pennant and Shaw 
think the cuttle-fish is meant, when the Kraken is described, 
fin 1824, Peron saw, near Van Dieman's Land, a calamary 
whose body was as large as a cask, and the naturalistsj of 

♦Kent.— Gigantic Cuttle-fish, p. 13. 

+ Mansin.— MyBteries of the Ocean, p. 390. 

t Landrin.— Leg Monstres Marins, p. 38. 


the " Urania," found the remains of one, weighing one hun- 
dred pounds, and deposited them in the Paris Museum. 

* Steenstrup describes one, found in Jutland, whose body 
filled a cart, and there are accounts of the finding of other 
specimens of these monstrous Cephalapoda. 

Kent describes such an animal, who attacked fishermen 
in a boat, and whose tentacle, severed by them, measured 
some nineteen feet. Its body could have been no less than 
twenty feet in diameter, and its arms thirty feet long. 
Another was captured entire, in St. Johns, Newfoundland, 
and described in a journal of the date. Its body was eight 
feet long, five feet in diameter, and its long tentacles twenty- 
four feet in length. Reliable evidence of the finding of 
others, measuring forty, forty-seven and eighty feet in 
stretch of limb, are given by the same author. One, whose 
body was fifteen feet long, was found on the Grand Banks, by 
Captain Campbell, of the schooner B. D. Haskins. Another 
was found alive, whi.^se body was ten feet in length, and its 
arms forty feet in extent. Other interesting accounts of 
these veritable giants are given in the work alluded to, and 
Mr. Kent concludes: " It further appears obvious that the 
numerous tales and traditions that have been current from 
the earliest times, concerning the existence of colossal species 
of this race, though in some instances unscrupulously exag- 
gerated, had, in all probability, in the main, a groundwork of 
fact, and can be no longer passed over as the mere fabrica- 
tions of a disordered mind." 

\ There is certainly a basis of truth in the stories of curi- 
ous fish, although the imagination has played strange 
tricks with men. Such strange animals as the hammer- 
headed shark, the walrus, the poh-pus, and many well known 
varieties of fish, were doubtless seen in all ages, and lent a 
color of probability to the stories of the existence of the sea- 
monk, and other animals similar to forms terrestrial. 

Again, as a probable element in the origin and growth 
of these beliefs, comes the recent testimony of geology and 
paleontology, to the existence of monstrous and enormous 
marine animals in former ages, especially in the Mesozoic 
time. The elasomosaurus, had a body thirty feet in Jength, 
tapering to a long tail, propelled bj' paddles or flippers, and a 
neck twenty feet in length; surmounted by alarge, flat head, 
with terrible teeth and fierce eyes. The ichthyosaurus, or 

• Mangin.— Mysteries of the Ocean, p. 287. 


fish-lizard; the plesiosaurus, and the teleosaurus, similar 
monsters, even surpassed this in size; and the mosasaurus 
was at least sixty feet in length, with a narrow, serpent-like 
body, and .a long and lance-shaped head. Who shall say 
that these monsters may not have existed in antiquity, or at 
least traditions of them, and may not their degenerate de- 
scendants even now exist at the bottom of the great depths 
of the ocean? 

All these things are to be borne in mind in the case of the 
much-derided sea-serpent. In antiquity, Oceanus was at 
first a river, easily imagined a serpent, and this is, as Keary 
shows,* the same as Jormundgandr, of Norse myths. 

But later accounts of the appearance of this reptile would 
seem to have an undoubted real basis. They are so circum- 
stantial, they resemble one another in their particulars, 
most of them come from seamen, more accustomed to the 
element in which these animals are found, and are in many 
cases supported by reliable testimony. Naturalists are now 
disposed to think that a foundation in truth exists, accord- 
ingly, for these tales. Remains of serpentine monsters have 
been found in the rock. | The titanophis was at least thirty 
feet in length, and another, the clidastes, was even eighty 
feet long, serpentine in body, and carnivorous in habits. 
Existing water-snakes of great size have been described. 
J Tape fishes (gymnetrus and regalecus) from thirty to sixty 
feet long, have been found, resembling a serpent. The 
basking shark attains a length of from thirty to fifty feet, 
and this, says Sir Charles Lyell, must have been thought a 

Some of these giant serpents have been seen by seamen. 
The master of the bark Georgina saw, on May 21, 1877, in 
the Indian ocean, a large serpent, forty or fifty feet long, 
and ten or eleven inches in diameter, of a gray and yellow 
color. Dawson, the Canadian naturalist, gives an account 
of a sea monster seen by many in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 
It was black, with a rough skin, and was from eight}' 
to a hundred feet long; and another seen in Nova Scotian 
waters, was sixty feet long, and three feet in diameter. 
Both these are described as having along the back a series 
of humps or protuberances. 

A recent authority says, " I have no idea that we shall 

* Outlines of Primitive Belief, p. 71-74. 
+ Holder, in Lippincott's Magazine. 

♦ Wilson.— Sea-6«pents of Science. 

sauria of various geological periods is possible but improb- 
able. Within a few years our imperfect apparatus has 
secured from great depths a host of strange creatures, but 
none of the largest or strongest. In fact, we have had 
scarcely more than mere suggestions of what may exist; 
and, in view of them, should not be surprised at anything 
that may come up. If there is a sea-serpent yet unknown 
to scientists, it is likely to prove a deep-sea fish or Sela- 
chian." * 

Finally, many accounts of the sea-serpent have perhaps 
been due to the presence of enormous sea-plants. Such a 
one was seen by the ship Peking, near Moulmain, in 1848.! 
This had been previously seen by another vessel, and re- 
ported as being an enormous sea-serpent. The Peking sent 
her boats, and found it to be a sea-plant, some one hundred 
feet long. These enormous plants, as thick as a man's body, 
floating on the waves, undulating, serpent-like, with their 
motion, may easily be taken for serpents. 

♦Gorman, in Fish CtommissiOQ Report, 1884. 
+ Mangin.— Mysteries of the Ocean, p. 303. 



" His hook he baited with a dragon's tail, 
And sat upon a rock, and bobbed for whale.'' 

William King. 

" For seas, as well as skies, have sun, moon, stars, 
As well as air, swallows, rooks and stares. 
As well as earth, vines, roses, nettles, melons. 
Mushrooms, pinks, gilly-flowers, and many millions 
Of other plants more rare, more strange than these 
As very fish living in the seas." 

Du Bartas, Divine Weeks and Works. 

>ANY legends and curious tales 
have been current among mar- 
iners and fishermen concern- 
ing the finny inhabitants of the 
deep, from the huge whale to 
the smallest perch. These leg- 
ends, as far as they relate to enor- 
mous and curious whales and fish, 
have been reported in the last chapter. 
There existed in antiquity some very 
strange ideas concerning whales, 
apart from the general exaggeration 
in respect to size. *Nearchus en- 
countered a school of these animals, 
many of them very large, in the 
Persian Gulf, and they so terrified 
and alarmed his crews, that he formed his ships 
in line, and charged upon them, blowing horns 
to frighten them away. 

fAldrovandus figures some strange looking objects for 
whales. In one cut, such a monster is biting off the entire 
stern of a ship. It is spouting water out of the entire top 
of its head, in a cataract sufficient to submerge the vessel. 

* Groodrich.— Man upon the Sea, p. 77. 

+ Landrixu— Les Monstres Marlns, p. 152 and 153. 





Another animal is pig-snouted and saucer-eyed, having a 
remarkable fringe or mane about its neck, and, projecting 
from the top of its head, two tubes or funnels, from which 
it spouts water. Another has a curious sort of external 
spine, with bag-like appendages along it. It is attacked by 
two smaller animals with pig's heads, and spine-like projec- 
tions from the middle of its back. 

*An old " Bestiare d' Amour " says the whale has a shell 
on its back, whose folds are like a valley, and that it attracts 
fish by its smell. 

jMunster says whales near Iceland destroyed ships. 
JArnanson reports many curious Icelandic notions concern- 
ing whales. There are said to be two classes of these ani- 
mals. Good whales spout high, and are favorable to men, 
defending them from the attacks of bad whales, which latter 


are known by their short, quick " spouts '' or " blows." 
Should the defender, in such cases, suffer harm, vengeance 
is sure to overtake the ungrateful person harming him. 
Gisli was thus attacked by a bad whale, and delivered by a 
good one. The ox-whale was said to be like an ox. The 
sword-whale had a fin on its back, like a sword. The ling- 
back has ling, or heather, growing on its back. The red- 
maned whale has a particularly bad name, and its thirst for 
human blood is said only to be quenched by that of seven 
brothers, but it also proves to be its destruction. The 
Rauthkembingr, or Red-comb, is also very malicious and 
blood-thirsty, and the Buhwahlr can easily bite a ship in 

* Landrln.— Les Monstres Marina, p. 150, 
+ " Cosmography." 
t Icelandic Legends. 



*In the Norse Heims Kringla, a warlock assumes the 
shape of a whale, in order to carry news from Iceland to 
Norway, f So in an Icelandic folk-tale, a man is changed 
into a whale by a water-woman whom he had married and 
deserted. He causes death to many persons, and wrecks 
many boats. Finally, after swallowing the daughter of a 
priest, he is decoyed by him into shallow water, where he 
dies, and it is said that his immense skeleton is still seen on 
the sands. Ahts say the whale, Quahteaht, is the incarna- 
tion of a certain great deity. 

We have spoken of the whale that carried Astolpho. So 
in a Norse tale a youth is carried on the back of a whale. 
J A Miniako hero, Glooscap, was carried to the sunset land 
on the back of a whale. 


§ " Then the water grew so shoal that the whale heard the 
song of the clams as they lay under the sand, singing to her 
that she should throw him off and drown him. For these 
clams were his deadly enemies. But Bootup, the whale, 
did not understand their language, so she asked her rider — 
for he knew Clam — what they were chanting to her. And 
he replied in a song." 

Presently the whale ran high and dry on the beach, and 
begged him to get her off. " Then, with a push of his bow 
against her head, he sent her off into deep water. And the 
whale rejoiced greatly. But ere she went she said, 'O my 
grandson, hast thou not such a thing as an old pipe and 
some tobacco? ' " He replied, — 

* Conway.— Demonology and Devil-lore. Vol. I, p. 166. 

i Amanson.— Icelandic Legend?. See also Powell and Magnugeon, p. 409. 

$ Conway.— Demonoloey and Devil-lore, Vol. I, p. 46. 

i Leland.— Algonquin Legends, 18S4, p. 34. 


" ' Ah yes. 

You want tobacco, 
I behold you.' 

" So he gave her a short pipe and some tobacco, and 
thereunto a light. And the whale being of good cheer, 
sailed away, smoking as she went, while Glooscap, standing 
silent on the shore, and ever leaning on his maple bow, be- 
held the long low cloud which followed her until she van- 
ished in the far away." 

In an Italian folk tale, a whale teaches a man how to 
succeed in certain tasks. * There is a New Zealand tale of 
a whale that obligingly allowed a man to cut steaks from its 
body. A magician finally killed it, by stopping its blow- 

According to the Norse "Book of Kings," certain whales 
drove the fish into the nets, so long as the fishermen did not 
quarrel, f Cardinal Maflei says a whale seriously menaced 
a ship, while on a voyage to the East Indies, until it was 
exorcised by a priest, when it went away. 

I In a Greenland tale, a girl is earned off by a whale, 
who is a man in disguise. Another whale is lured into 
shallow water by a magic lay. Esquimaux said that a cer- 
tain whale, having two black spots on either side, was re- 
served for the spirit of the moon, and must not be killed. 

A Waikato (New Zealand) story represents a whale as 
stranding on the coast, that contained, or was the body of a 
deified man. Any one eating of it became spiritualized. 

§ In the Georgian islands, whales were sacred, and were 
not killed. Tongans and Kamtchatdales sacrificed to them. 

Whales also furnish prognostications. ||Aubrey sa5's a 
whale came up the Thames during Cromwell's protector- 
ate, and greatly alarmed that iron man, who thought it for- 
boded trouble. 

Fishermen on our own coast say that it is a sign of 
storms, if whales lie about, blowing and puffing. 

** Swift says, " Seamen have a custom, when they meet a 
whale, to fling him out an empty tub, by way of amusement, 
to divert him from laying violent hands (sic) on the ship." 
This custom is also mentioned in Brandt's " Ship of Fools," 

» Grey.— Polynesian Mythology. 

+ Jones. — Ci-edulities, 

} HinJs.— Tales and Traditions of the Esquimaux. 

I Tylor.— Primitive Culture, Vol. II, p. 270. 

I Miscellanies. 

"•Tale of a Tub, Preface, 1701. 


and there is a picture in Munster's " Cosmography," of men 
on board ship throwing a tub overboard to a whale near by. 

* Scotch whalers had a legend of an invulnerable whale, 
two centuries old, whose back was covered with algse and 
shells, f Melville says similar traditions existed concerning 
sperm whales, and a famous white whale, the hero of his 
story, " Moby Dick." 

Both the authors last quoted record a superstition long 
existing among whalers, that these animals had some exces- 
sively rapid means of locomotion; that they were able mys- 
teriously to transport themselves long distances, and that 
whales were found in the South Seas with harpoons in 
them, which had been struck in Greenland. 

Hovas of Madagascar say, when an earthquake occurs, 
" The whale is turning over." " The whales are playing 
with their children." 


Tales of men swallowed by whales, sharks, and fish, are 
numerous. In Welsh mythology, the whale is Kyd (Cetus). 
* Taliesin says, " Who brought Jonas out of the belly of 
Kyd ? " Davies, the Arkite mythologist, says it typifies the 

§Pradyumna, son of Vishnu, was swallowed by a fish, 
and restored to life. According to a modern Hindoo story, 
a maiden jumped into a fish's mouth, and remained there 
twelve years, causing the monster so much trouble and dis- 
tress, that a crow, a jackal, and a serpent are sent down his 
throat, to liberate her. 

* Mangin.— Mysteries of the Ocean, p. 209 ^ 

+ Moby Dick. 

i Celtic Mythology. 

S Gubematls.— Zoological Mythology. Cox.— Aryan Mythology, Vol. I, p. 26. 


* In an Italian folk-tale, a little girl is received in the 
belly of an enchanted whale, where she finds a garden, pal- 
ace and people, f In a Roman storj', it is a queen who is 
thus swallowed, and who speaks, is heard, and liberated. In 
a Russian tale, a whale swallows a whole fleet, and a forest 
grows out of its back. It aids the hero of the tale to find a 
casket, and can then get rid of the fleet. In a Mongol tale, 
Ai-Kkan, a sorcerer, assumes the shape of a cup, and falls into 
the sea, where he is swallowed by a fish, but is eventuallj^ 
rescued from its stomach. 

Traditions of North American Indians tell of similar oc- 
currences. \ Boin, an Indian hero, like Glooscap, was car- 
ried to paradise in the belly of a whale, pa)'ing tobacco as 
a fee for his passage. Hence, say Nova Scotia Indians, 
when you see the whale spout, it is the smoke of Boin's 

Indians of Shoalwater Bay had a tradition that a certain 
man was swallowed by a whale, and cut out by his brother. 
§So, in Ojibway legend, a g^eat hero, the Little Monedo, 
was swallowed by a great fish, and liberated by his sister. 

11 Manabozho, the Algonquin hero (Longfellow's Hia- 
watha), was swallowed by a whale, but wedged his canoe 
across the monster's throat, and killed him. Gulls then 
pecked a hole in its body, and liberated him. 

Plutarch sa/s a Greek hero lived three days in a shark's 
stomach. Lycophron asserts that Hercules was imprisoned 
in a whale's belly, and Eneis de Gaza says Hercules' cup 
was a whale. 

In the first chapter of Jonah, we are told that a storm 
arose, and that lots were cast to see whose fault it was, and 
the lot fell on Jonah. He offered himself as a sacrifice, and 
was cast into the sea, where a great fish swallowed him. 
"And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three da3's and 
nights." He was finally delivered, by pra)'ing to the Lord. 
** In Mussulman legend, the ship was mysteriousl)' stopped 
at sea, and lots were cast for a sacrifice, which fell on Jonah. 
He was accordingly thrown overboard. A huge fish swal- 
lowed him, and he remained inside it forty days, being 
finally delivered by prayer. 

•Pentamerone.— Bk. \ ill. 

+ Gubernaris.— Zoological Jlj-thology, Vol. II, p. 837. 

JFarrar. — Primitive Customs. 

§ Tylor.— Primitive Culture, Vol. I, p, 338. 

I Schoolcraft.— Algic Researches, Vol. I, p. 46. 

•• Weil.— Legends of the Koran. 


* These comparative examples conclusively show the 
man-swallowing whale to be a myth, and we are here, as 
mythologists agree, confronted by the same idea as was 
shown in the case of the sea-monsters — a conflict between 
light and darkness, or day and night. As the sun was 
swallowed up at night in the ocean, a monster was easily 
imagined as doing it, and the whale being the greatest 
monster, he was credited with these feats. All these heroes 
are solar heroes, and represent the sun. 

f The Narwhal is called in Iceland Nahvalhr, or Death- 
whale, and it is fabled only to appear above water to fore- 
tell destruction by wreck. In Greenland tales, it is the 
embodiment of the soul of a certain woman, condemned at 
death to do penance thus. 

This animal was by some fabled to be the unicorn, gen- 
erall)' deemed a land-animal. X Its horn was supposed to 
be an antidote to poison, long before the animal was known 
to exist. Its very presence was thought to detect the most 
subtle essences. Cups were made of it, and enormous prices 
were paid for the horn itself,§ six thousand ducats being 
mentioned. Ambrose Pare, a celebrated French physician, 
says that pieces of it were placed in the king's drinking cup, 
so late as 1606. 

Dekker tells us of — 

I " The Unicorn whose horn is worth a city," 

alluding to the great price paid for them. 

Many strange notions have been entertained concerning 
spermaceti, amber, and ambergris. Spermaceti, as its name 
indicates, was long supposed to be the sperm of the whale. 
** Sir Thomas Browne says it was, in his time, thought to 
be a bituminous substance, floating on the surface of the 

El Idressee says ambergris flows from the bottom of the 
sea, and we are told by a Mahometan traveler of 851 A.D., 
tha^ the Hindoos then believed it was generated by the 
whale. Sindbad found a spring of crude ambergris, which, 
he says, fish swallow and then disgorge, after it has been 
congealed. In the seventeenth century it was used in the 

• Tylor.— Primitive Culture, Vol. I, p. 340. 
+ Arnanson.— Icelandic Legends. 

t Landrin.— Les Monstres Marlns, p. 192. 

I Jones.— Credulities, p. 160, 

I Gull's Hornbook. 

** Vulgar Errors, m, 26. 


composition of love-powder. *A chemist, Nicholas Lemery, 
in 1675, says it is a sort of bitumen, found on sea-beaches. 

f O'Reilly mentions a legend current among whalers, 
that amber (ambergris?) is a petrifaction of some interior 
part of a whale. There were stories of whales that nearly 
turned to amber, such as he celebrates in " The Amber 

Josselyn in his " Second Voyage " says, "Amber-greese, 
I take to be a mushroom. Monardus writeth that amber- 
greese riseth out of a certain clammy and bituminous earth 
under the seas, and by the seaside, the billows casting up 
part of it aland, and fish devour the rest. Some say it is 
the seed of,a whale. Others that it springs from fountains 
as pitch doth, which fish swallow down; the air congealeth 

It is now well known that ambergris is the indurated 
faeces of the whale, deposited by disease. When the whale 
is struck, it vomits some of it up. Amber is the petrified 
resin of a tree, found on sea-beaches, but is often con- 
founded with ambergris. 

The shark has been connected with many superstitious 
ideas. Its French name requin, indicates its deadly nature, 
the requiem being often sung over its victims. 

J Sailors have long thought it an ill-ornened animal. § It 
was believed able to scent a victim, and would follow a ship 
for miles, in which a dead body laj'. || To see one follow a 
ship was an ill-omen. 

** Cheever says, "A sailor always regards the presence of 
a shark about a ship a most fatal omen to the sick on board. 
The highest exultation I ever witnessed on board a man-of- 
war, was occasioned by harpooning a shark that was hang- 
ing about while a favorite was sick." 

f f Plutarch says, the shark is kind to its offspring, taking 
it into its stomach in case of danger. 

Pearl divers in Ceylon employ shark charmers, to pro- 
tect them while at work. ]X Marco Polo first told us of them. 
He calls them Brahmans or Abraemani. Their charms only 
operated in daylight, and they received as wages a twenti- 

* Landrin.— Les Monstres Marins, 221. 

+ Song5 of the Southern Seas. 

% Cooper. — Homeward Bound. 

§ Carnes-— Voyage to West Africa. 

« Grant.— Mi-steries, p. 399. 

** Sea and .Sailor, 1827. 

tl-Landrin, p. 89. 

«Xule.— Marco Polo, Vol. II, p. 281. 


eth of the gains of the fishermen. Colonel Yule says the 
modern snake charmers have taken their places. They are 
called Kudal, or Timmal (sea-binders) or Haibandi (shark- 
binders). The chief operator is pensioned by the govern- 
ment, and receives ten oysters daily from each boat. At 
Aripo, these charmers all belong to one family. * Two go 
out, one in a boat, the other on the beach. The latter has 
a basin filled with water, and in it several silver fish. He 
shuts himself up with them, and declares that the fish will 
fight, should any harm come to the divers. The man in the 
boat performs certain incantations in the bows, while pro- 
gressing seaward. 

f Tahitians deified the blue shark, dedicating to it tem- 
ples and a priest. These were called akud maoo (shark 
gods), and were supposed to recognize their priests. |Afri- 
can negroes worship it, calling it Joujou, and sacrifice rab- 
bits to it. At certain times, they bind a child, ten years old, 
decorated with flowers, etc., to a post on the beach at low 
tide, and leave it to be devoured by sharks, drowning its 
cries with the noise of drums. 

§ Sharks' teeth were formerly set in gold as a charm, and 
when powdered and mixed with the brain, became a medi- 

11 There have been many legends of its voracity. Labat, 
a French naturalist, asserts that it prefers white men, and 
Englishmen above all. A shark cut open at Marseilles is 
said to have contained a man, clad in armor, in its stomach, 
and another, a horse. 

The Dolphin and the Porpoise have long been associated 
with many curious legends. The dolphin was fabled to be 
fond of men, of music and of company, and had prescience 
of coming storms, .^lian tells of children riding on their 
backs and plaj'ing v^'ith them. **An ancient Roman tradi- 
tion averred that a dolphin in the Lucrine lake had a great 
fondness for a child, feeding from its hand, and carrying it 
on its back. Pausanias says he saw one at Paros, which, 
wounded by a fisherman, and aided by a child, afterwards 
came at its call, and served it as a vehicle. Many tales of its 
canning men ashore from wrecks were told.' Telemachus 

* Jones.— Broad, Broad Ocean, p. 148. 

+ Ellis-— Polynesian Kesearches, Vol. I, p. 178. 

t Landrln.— Les Monstres Marins, p 90. 

§Landrln, — Les Monstres Marins, p. 89. 

BLandrin. — I>es Monstres 78. 

*► PUny.— Natural History, Vol. rv, p. 8. 



was saved by one, and Plutarch f recounts a similar tale of a 
certain Hesiod. He also tells a story of two lovers, one of 
whom leaped overboard to escape being sacrificed, followed 
by the other, when both were carried ashore, and saved by 
a dolphin. Arion, condemed as a sacrifice by the mariners, 
taking his harp and charming the fish, leaped overboard, 
and was carried safely ashore bj' a dolphin. So Spencer, — 

f "That was Arion, crown'd. 
Who, playing on his harp, after him drew 
The ears and hearts of all that goodly crew; 
That ere yet the Dolphin which him bore 
Through the jEgean seas, from pirates' view. 
Stood still by him, astonished at his lore. 
And all the raging seas forgot to roar." 


And Ovid,- 

I " But past belief, a dolphin's arched back, 
Presenr'd Arion from his destin'd wrack. 
Secure he sits, and with harmonious strains. 
Requites his bearer for his friendly pains." 

In La Fontaine's Fables, a tale is told of a dolphin who 
picked up a monkey from a wreck, and carried him nearly 
to the shore, but suddenly dropped him, on discovering that 
he could not speak. 

* Morals. — Goodwin's Trans. 

+ Marria^ ol the Thames and Medway. 

i Metamorphoses. See also Ford.— Lovers' Melancholy, Act I, scene 1. 


Other stories were told of the intelligence of man-loving 
animals.* Seneca tells a tale from Babillus, of a conflict be- 
tween crocodiles and dolphins at the Heraclite mouth of the 
Nile, in which the latter vanquished their formidable adver- 
saries by diving under them, and plunging the fin on their 
backs into the soft bellies of their opponents. 

f Pliny says they aided fishermen on the French coast 
near Nimes to catch tunny, by driving them into their nets, 
and by intercepting and devouring them, when they at- 
tempted to escape. For these services, they were rewarded 
with bread soaked in wine. 

Ptolemy Soter, when driven out of his course by contrary 
winds, is said to have been directed to the right course by a 
dolphin. Both dolphins and porpoises were attendant on 
Poseidon, Amphitrite, and the other sea-gods. Two dol- 
phins are said to have carried off Amphitrite, and brought 
her to Poseidon. 

J One of the titles of Apollo was Delphinios, given him 
after he had assumed the form of a dolphin, in order to 
guide a ship's crew to his temple at Delphos. 

Bacchus, when carried off by Tyrrhenian pirates, trans- 
formed the crew into Dolphins.§ 

"All my crew, transformed, around the ship. 
Or dive beloiv, or on the surface keep, 
And sport the wave, or wanton in the deep. 

A shoal of useless dolphins round her play." 

Pliny and .^lian assert that the dolphin sleeps on his 
back, sinking until he touches the bottom, then rising to the 
surface, thus being continually in motion. 

Later antiquity represented the dolphin as a sign of good 
fortune. They were to lead souls to happiness, to carry 
men on their backs to the Fortunate Isles. Thus in the 
middle ages, and in early Christian art,|| it became the 
symbol of Christ, who was to lead souls through the waters 
of baptism. So it is found on early Christian tombs, with 
the word "philanthropos," in keeping with its ancient 
character, as well as with the new ideas. It often accom- 
panies the Saints in earl}' representations, as an emblem of 

*Landiln.— Les Moustres Marins, p. 208. 
+ Landrin.— p. -212. Pliny.— Book XIV, p. 9. 
t Cox.— Aryan Mj-tliology Book II, Chapter 2. 
§ Ortd. — Metamorphoses. XV. 
I Lindsay. — Christian Art. 


fortunate existence. It was still reported, however, to carry 
men on its back. 

*St. Arlan and St. Th6odique, martyrs, were said to have 
been carried ashore by them. The body of St. Lucien, of 
Samosata, was likewise thus transported, and the body of 
the dolphin who carried his remains was long exposed in a 
temple. A Persian author asserts its carrying propensity, 
and a Breton folk tale says a dolphin carried men ashore 
from a wrecked boat. 

The dolphin was a symbol of other qualities. Sir 
Thomas Browne says it is the hieroglyph of celerity, and 
Sj'lvanus Morgan, that of society. It was also an emblem 
of fortune, and became the symbol of certain cities. To 
dream of a dolphin, however, was to lose your lover, ac- 
cording to dream-lore. 

f Stow says: "A dolphin came forth of the sea. These 
dolphins are fishes of the sea, that follow the voices of 
men, and rejoice in playing of instruments, and are wont to 
gather themselves at musick." "The seas contain nothing 
so swiff nor nimble, for oftentimes, with .their skips, they 
mount over the sailes of the ship." 

I Olmstead records a modern sailor superstition, which 
is shown by the name common among them for the por- 
poise, of sea-hog (German Meerschweiti): "The mouths of 
all varieties of the porpoise have some resemblance to that 
of a swine, from which circumstance sailors have assigned 
a rather fanciful origin to this class of Cetacea. According 
to an opinion prevalent among them, when the evil spirits 
were cast out of the unfortunate man near the lake of Gen- 
esaret, and entered into the herd of swine, the whole herd 
ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and were 
changed into porpoises." 

The blood of a porpoise, mixed with a little of the heart, 
pulverized, and placed under the armpit, was, in the 
middle-ages, believed to bestow great judgment upon the 

§ Cotton Mather assures us that it is the providence of 
God that sends these animals to be caught by people at 
sea, in distress for want of food. 

The dolphin is often figured along with the Chinese god 
of the sea. Esquimaux say dolphins were once men. 

*Lanclrin.— Op. clt. p. 214. 

i Chronicles. 

t Notes of a Whaling Voyage (1841). 

§ Magnalift Christi Americana. 


Ruskin says that the dolphin in Greek art is the sea 
itself, and is also typical of the rising and setting sun, its 
arching back being taken as a sign of these. 

The dolphin in mythology and folk-lore typifies the 
moon, the weather-maker, and, as Gubernatis shows, is a 
symbol of the soul journey and of the new birth, as also 
above-stated.* ''The dolphin, that watches over Amphi- 
trite by order of Poseidon, in the Hellenic myth, is the 
same as the dolphin, the spy of the sea, or the moon, the 
spy of the nocturnal and misty sky. Inasmuch as the sky 
of night or winter was compared to the kingdom of the 
dead, both the dolphin and the moon, according to the 
Hellenic belief, carried the souls of the dead." 

As the dolphin and the shark are often seen together 
about the ship, the latter gloomy, watchful, and malicious, 
and the former playful and mild in appearance, there would 
naturally grow up, alongside of the tradition of the ill-omen 
of the one, that of the man-loving qualities of the other. 
This, with the notion of their usefulness as weather-indi- 
cators, has perhaps given rise to these many myths. 

With these animals was connected the seal, in many 
legends. Its peculiarly human look, its soft and mild eyes, 
and its child-like cry, were early noticed, and doubtless led 
it to be imagined a mermaid, who could, by rejecting the 
seal garment, assume the human shape, and dance on the 
strand. Many of the stories of the docility and friendliness 
of the dolphin may have arisen from confounding it with 
the seal, which is well known as susceptible of being well 
tamed. So of the music-loving qualities of the two animals. 
Captain Scoresby and other Arctic travelers remark on the 
acute hearing of the seal, and its fondness for music, one 
writer having drawn them out by a few notes of his flute, 
fin Iceland, the seal is a Sjovite, or animal that will come 
when called. They are also called Pharaoh's men, and are 
fabled to come ashore and dance on the strand, on St. 
John's night. On the west coast of Ireland,J fishermen fear 
to kill them, as they possess "the souls of them that were 
drowned at the flood." § Greenlanders also think that the 
souls of people inhabit seals' bodies after death. The Umi- 
arak, a spectral boat, is filled with seal-rowers, when too 

* Zoological Mythology, Book II. 

•fMaurer.— IslaidischeSageQ. 121. 

t Froude. — Short Studies. 

£ Bink,— Tales and Traditions of the Esqiiirqaiiy. 157. 


many have been killed in a season. * Esquimaux believe 
that seals will be frightened away, if the heads of those 
taken are thrown into the water, so they burn them, or pile 
them up on shore. 

f Weddel says a man left temporarily on a rock in South 
Shetland heard a mournful cry, and, on looking up, saw a 
seal. He declared it was a sea-ghost, and begged to be 
taken on board ship, deeming the appearance of the seal an 
ill-omen. Melville also says that sailors considered the 
cries of seals an omen of disaster. 

A host of legends have been current concerning fish, and 
so remarkable have been many of these, that it has grown 
into a saying to characterize an unusually improbable tale, 
as a fish story. These legends are of various kinds, some 
mythical, others fanciful notions of fishermen and sailors, 
and others embracing false ideas of the shape, habits and 
characteristics of these animals. 

Fish have been the incarnation of various deities and 
heroes. X According to Hindoo lore, Agasti was born a fish. 
Vishnu, Buddha, Indra, and Adrika were at one time fish, 
and the sons of the latter were Matsyas (male fish), and her 
daughters Matsya (female fish). Vishnu was at first a small 
fish in a pond, and become gradually larger and larger, being 
transferred from tank to lake, and from lake to ocean, where 
he saved man from destruction, by towing the ark. Eros 
and Aphrodite, escaping from Typhon, became fish. 

In Norse legend, Loki became a salmon, and Andvari a 

Oriental Mahisars, evil demons, had fish-heads, and fish, 
in the Arabian Nights, become efreets, or evil genii. 

Gavran, a Welsh sorcerer, transformed himself into a fish, 
to gain certain ends. Tuan McCorreal was three hundred 
years a fish. Isembart, a hero of the legends concerning 
William of Orange, was a fish, and was transformed into a 
man by a fairy. Fairies themselves became fish, in Hindoo, 
Greek, and French folk-tales. 

Japanese have a tradition that fish are the embodiment 
of the souls of naval ofiicers. 

Thorstein, an Icelandic magician, was condemned to be- 
come the greatest fish in the sea, and as such he wrecked 
nineteen ships. 

* Farrar. — Primitive Customs, 28. 
+ Voyage to South SheUand (1825). 
t Oubernatis.— Zoological Mythology, Vol. II, p. 380. 



*Fish in Clear lake are transformed from grasshoppers 
by a Coyote fiend. Xalote, in Mexican legend, became a fish, 
and a certain tribe claimed the fish of a river as their rela- 
tions, and would not kill 
them, f Tlailottakans rep- 
resented that all drowned 
at the- deluge became fish. 
A West Indian legend says 
that the prime minister of 
a certain revolted prince 
was turned into a flj'ing- 
fish, and the former inhabit- 
ants in the shapes of dol- 
phins chased him. 

African negroes think 
that magicians assume the 
shapes of fish, and come to 
their nets to work evil. 

JFijians suppose that 
certain deities reside in fish. 

Besides the Fish-gods 
and demons spoken of in' a 
previous chapter, many fish 
were sacred, and some de- 
monical. In ancient Egypt, 
they were Typhonic, and 
priests could not eat them, 
while in Catholic belief 
they are allowed to be eaten 
when flesh is forbidden. 
Jews of the middle ages 
cast a fish in the sea, to 
carry awa}' their sins. 

§ T h e Oxyrhynchians 
worshiped the Oxyrhynchus, 
and the Latopolitans the 

Ten fish guarded the 
tree which produced the 
Soma, or heavenly nectar, 
according to the Vedaic 


* Bancroft.— Native Haces, Vol. Ill, p. ST 
+ Bancroft.— lU. p. 67. 

t WilllamB.— Fyi, Vol; I; p. 817, 
g Tylor.— Prim. Cult., Vol. I,p. 238. 


* Indians at Qu'Appelle river caught a strange fish, in 
1858. They at once threw it back into the river, and sacri- 
ficed dogs to it, declaring it a manitou, or deity. 

Tahitians, Fijians, ancient Peruvians, and natives of other 
South Sea Isles, all worshiped or reverenced fish. Guinea 
negroes selected the bonito and sword-fish as deities. 

The turbot and halibut are still regarded with veneration 
by Shetland fishermen, f Blind says they are both holy 
fish. The turbot takes its name from the Northern deity 
Thor (Thor's butt). Folk-lore stories represent them as all- 
powerful. A fish-prince is brought out of the sea, in one of 
these tales, by the power of the charm, — 

" Little man, little man, Timpe Te, 
Little butt, little butt, in the sea." 

It is called in German Heiligen Fisch (holy fish). A cor- 
respondent in Shetland told Blind that fishermen there, when 
they get a " b;ie " from a turbot, keep perfect silence, not 
allowing anyone to speak. Should anyone pronounce the 
name of this fish, he was thought the cause of a day's ill- 
luck, and was punished for it. The halibut (holy butt) was 
the object of similar superstitions. 

J So the salmon is held in great veneration by Scotch 
fishermen. Its name must never be spoken, and it is 
called instead, "So andso's fish," "thespey codlin " or "the 
beast." To speak of it at sea, or to catch either it or trout 
in the nets, was a bad omen. 

§ Fish typified the faithful in early Christian art, and were 
also symbols of Christ. Anciently they were placed on 
tombs as symbols, and also on baptismal fonts. Greeks 
put round dishes with fish on them in tombs to feed the 
dead. The word " Ichthus " (fish), was placed on charms, 
because its letters formed the initials of the words "Jesus 
Christ our Savior." 

Fish have also been consulted as oracles. Those in a 
fountain in Syria gave responses by leaping up, or floating 
upon the water. They are frequently said to predict storms. 
11 Cornish fishermen place their fish in barrels, and they occa- 
sionally make a squeaking sound, when their air-bladders 

* Brlnton.— Myth3 of the New World. 

+ Scottish and Shetlandio Water-gods. Cent. Kev., 1882. 

t Gregor.— Folk-lore of Scotland. 

8 Lindsaj". — Christain Art. 

I BottreU.— Traditions of West Cornwall, 


burst. This predicts good luck. * Jinnu, a Japanese queen, 
fished for an auspicious omen on the first day of the fourth 
month, and caught a fish. Ladies fish on that day. 

In Tobit, a fish is boiled to raise a vapor charm, which 
drives away evil spirits. ' A mediaeval legend represents a 
magician as using the blood of a fish in his conjurations 
and incantations. Fish entered into the composition of the 
witch broth. 

Strange transformations of fish are spoken of. In the 
story of the Fishermen in the Arabian Nights, Mussulmen 
are transformed into white fish, Persians into red fish, 
Christians into black fish, and Jews into yellow fish. 

f The saints often worked transformations with fish. St. 
Augustine, in passing through a village, was reviled by 
some men, and so caused fish tails to grow on them. St. 
Ulrich turned flesh into fish. J An odd story is told of St. 
Patrick. He was quietly helping himself to a tender chop 
on a fast-day, when an angel unexpectedly came up. The 
saint, not wishing to be caught sinning, quickly popped. the 
chop into a tank, signed the cross over it, and it became 
fish. In many parts of Ireland, meat is dipped into water, 
christened " St. Patrick's fish," and eaten on fast-days. 

The same saint, when reviled by fishermen, cursed their 
stream, and thereby forever banished fish from it. 

§ Glooscap changed a witch into a fish Kegunnibe, an 
evil fish, with a fin on its back. 

Many legends and tales record the intelligence of fish, 
and their gift-bringing and beneficial deeds. 

II There is an old Persian story that fish brought clay to 
build an island for Adam to live on. 

A Moslem instance of their sagacity represents them as 
coming out in crowds, on observing that no one fished on 
Sundays. St. Anthony, to convince certain skeptics, 
preached a sermon to a shoal of them, as any one may see 
by a picture in the Borghese palace at Rome. ** A Tal- 
mudic legend says Solomon tried to feed all the fish in one 
day. One hundred thousand came the same number of 
miles, and all were satisfied except the whale. 

Fish once gathered to choose a king, and did so by ac- 

» Mitford.— Tales of Old Japan. 

+ Jon ^s. — Credulities, p. 57. 

i Jones.— Credulities, p. 51. 

§ Leland.— Algonquin Folk-lore. 

n Baring Gould.— legends ot.tlie Prophets and Fatriardbs. 

** Weil.— Legends of the Koran. 



clamation. * A certain fish, the grunter, can talk, according 
to German legends. Its theme is a lament for its fish-shape, 
and for past happiness in another form. They were tradi- 
tionally inhabitants of Helgoland, transformed to fish for 
yielding to the devil. 

f Shoals of fish are said to have aided a Japanese fleet in 
their progress to Corea, by pushing their ships ahead. 

Indians of British Columbia were wont to meet the sal- 
mon in their way up the river, and make a speech to them 
to conciliate them. 

Marco Polo tells us a curious fish story, and its counter- 
part is told by Willbrand of Oldenburg, of a river in Cilicia, 
and by another author, of a lake in Georgia. J Polo says: 
" There is in this country a certain convent of nuns called 
St. Leonards; near the church in question is a small lake, 
at the foot of a mountain, and in this lake are found no fish, 
great or small, throughout the year, till Lent comes. On 
the first of Lent, they find in it the finest fish in the world, 
and great store thereof, and these are certain to be found 
till Easter eve. After that they are found no more till Lent 
come again." 

§ Another old traveler tells us: " In the land of Siria 
there is a river having a great store of fish like unto salmon- 
trouts, but no Jew can catch them, though either Christian 
or Turk shall catch them in abundance with great ease." 

II An old Arabian writer says fish came out of the Red 
Sea, to tempt the Jews to violate the passover. David pun- 
ished them for it, by making them into apes. 

** Hoare tells us: " The fish of a certain pool near Seez, in 
Normandy, fought so furiously that the noise attracted 
many people there, and many fish were killed, thus by a 
wonderful and unheard of prognostic, foretelling the death 
of one by that of many." Who that one is, we are not told. 

All fish were anciently reported to be fond of music. Plut- 
arch says: ff "Certain fish are caught by means of dancing, 
for during the dance they lift their heads above water, 
being much pleased and delighted with the sight, and 
thrashing their tails this way and that, in imitation of the 

♦ Schmidt. — Seeman's Sa^en und Schiffer MHrchen, 

♦ Mitford.— Tales of Old Japan. 
tTule.— -Marco Polo, Bk. VI p. EO, Vol I. 
S E. Wetibe.— Travels (1590). 

I Al Zamokti, in Brewer's "' Readers' Hand-Book." 
*• " GiraJdus Cambrensis," in Jones' Credulities, p. 53. 
•t+ Morals. — Goodwin's Trans. 


iElian and Aristotle reported that fish, particularly skates, 
were attracted and caught by carrying in a boat a musical 
instrument and net. * Jones says this is said to be practiced 
yet by boatmen on the Danube, who use bells. Carp have 
been known to answer the call of a bell. 

Arion and Orpheus charmed fish by their lyres. Horant, 
in the Gudrun lay, charmed them when he sang, and later 
heroes have been accorded the same powers. Wainamoinen, 
the Finnish hero, charmed birds, beasts and fishes with his 
harp, made from the bones of a pike. Maurice, the Irish 
piper, piped fish from the water, and the lady of Pengers- 
wick, according to Cornish legend, still attracts the fish by 
the sounds of her harp. 

In a German tale, Tiberias, Emperor of Rome, finds a 
fisherman, vainly trying to charm the fish with his fiddle, 
and he teaches his unskilled hands how to do it. 

A fisherman in Cornwall whipped a hake, and put it 
bafk into the wSter. According to the legends, they never 
came any more. 

f Fish in a mill-pond, according to Russian stories, em- 
ployed a magician to remove an obnoxious mill. 

Fish often, in folk-lore tales, bring benefits in gratitude 
for being put back in the water when caught, or for other 
considerations. In a German story, it is a ring that a fish 
restores to a youth. J In a Norse tale, it is the egg at the 
bottom of a well that incloses a giant's heart. In a Russian 
tale they assist a man to find his friends, and in another, 
they guide ashore a cask in which a woman has been thrown 
into the sea, and liberate her. In a Wallachian tale, they 
carry a man to the" bottom of the sea, to shield him from 
pursuers. § In German and Italian tales, fish bring many 
benefits to fishe;-men who restore them to the water. 

I In another German tale, a man is almost upset by an 
enormous fish, who reproaches him for fishing in the pond, 
and only agrees to liberate him, by the promise of his 
daughter. The maiden is carried down to wonderful palaces 
below the sea, whence she is finally delivered by her brother, 
after many perils. 

Remarkable stories are also told of the regenerative 
powers of fish. In the Pseudo Callisthenes, a fish returns 

* Broad, Broad Ocean. 315. 

+ Ralston.— Hussian Folk-lore. 

t Dasent.— Popular Tales from the Norse. 

§ " Straparolo^' and " Der Kossat und Stine fru." 

I Wuttke.— Deutsche Aljerglauben. 


to life when nearly ready to cook. * Abd-ul-Cassim, an 
eastern traveler, says of a certain river near the Black Sea: 
" Every year, there arrives in this part of the river a great 
quantity of fish. The people cut off the flesh on one side of 
them, eat it, and let the fish go. The year following, the 
same creatures return, and offer the other side, which they 
had preserved untouched. It is then discovered that new 
flesh has replaced the old." 

f A more wonderful story is told by Dr. Walsh: "At the 
distance of a quarter of a mile from the walls is Balatka, or 
the church of fishes. The church is so called from a legend 
that has rendered it very celebrated among the Greeks. 
There stood on this place a small Monastery of Greek 
Calayers, when Mohammed laid siege to Constantinople, 
who, it seems, were not molested by his armj'. On the day of 
decisive attack, a monk was frying some fish, when news 
was suddenly brought to the convent that the Turks had 
entered the town through the breach in the walls. ' I would 
as soon believe,' said he, ' that these fried fish would spring 
from. the pan, and become again alive.' To reprove the in- 
credulous monk, the fish did spring from the pan into a 
vessel of water which stood near, and swam about as if they 
had never been taken out of it." 

An eastern story asserts that the Angel Gabriel restored 
a sole to life, to assure the Virgin Mary of the truth of the 
miraculous conception. 

JPurchas says: "In the Moluccas there is a river stored 
with fishes and yet so bote that it flareth off the skinne of 
any creature that entereth it." 

St. Corentin had a fish caught each day which miracu- 
lously renewed itself. § St. Neot had been told to take from 
a well one fish each day, for his support. During his illness, 
his servant cooked two. On his discovering it, the saint 
caused the extra fish to be thrown back into the water, 
when it came to life again. 

Probabl}' on account of its regenerative powers, the fish 
was anciently a remedy for diseases. The carp was a well- 
known remedy. Van Helmont sa)'s the Dutch used to 
apply a split herring to the bite of a rabid dog,|| and a live 
trout was, not verj- many years ago, used to lay on the 

♦Jones. — Credulities, p. 51. 

+ Travels of Macarius, in Jones' Credulities, p. 50. 

t " Pilgrims." 

e Jones. — Credulities, p. 50. 

I Hendersoni— Folk-lore of the Northern Counties of Eng^land, p. 154. 



Stomach of a child troubled with worms, in Cleveland, 

Fish in many stories have an undoubted phallical "char- 
acter. These tales, numerous in folk-lore, represent them 
as causing women to conceive, when eaten, often at their 
own request. *The phallus is called in Neapolitan dialect 
pesce (fish). Eels share the same character with fish. 
fGubernatis says the French "poisson d'avril (April-fool 
fish) has a phallical meaning. This same idea would seem 
to be indicated by the accounts of their regenerative power. 

Miraculous draughts of fish are reported in many places. 
St. Bonita and St Anne were each favored with one. A 
clergyman in the north of England became unpopular in 
his parish, but regained his position by going out in the 
fishing-boats, when just one hundred and fifty-three fish, 
the miraculous draught, were caught.J 

Other miraculous supplies of fish are also recorded. 
§St. Thomas-a-Becket, when passing a certain stream, 
hearing that fish would be scarce, said, " the Lord will pro- 
vide," when a bream jumped out into his lap. | St. Peter is 
said to have visited Westminster at its foundation, crossing 
the Thames in a fisherman's boat. This man, complaining 
of the scarcity of fish, the apostle told him he should have 
plenty, if he would not fish on Sunday, and would pay a 
tithe to the church. A salmon was long presented annually 
to the church. 

A shooting-star is said to have rained fish in 519 A.D., 
and there are several later accounts of showers of fish. 

There are other miraculous occurrences recorded, as 
connected with fish. 

Pisces, the fish transferred to the constellations, reap- 
pears in the Esquimaux tradition that stars were once fish. 
**Greenlanders, however, said they were made from chips 
thrown into the water by a male sorcerer, and bits of cloth 
by a female. In the Finnish Kalevala, they are changed 
into foam by a magician, ff An Icelandic legend states that 
Christ created the stone grig by spitting into the sea, and 
St. Peter, in the same manner, the hake. Satan imitated 
them, but produced the devil-fish. 

* Gubernatis.— Zoological Jfythology, II, 247. 

+ Gubematis.— Zoological Mythology, It, 250. 

t Henderson.— Folk-lore of the North of England. 

§ Jones.^ri-ediilities, p. 50. 

I Jones.— Credulities. 

"Hans Egede. 

ttMaurer.— Islandische Sagen. 


* Mahometan writers say fish come ashore with their 
throats cut, since Mohammed blessed a knife and threw it 
into the sea. 

An Orkney conjurer fished up cooked fish from the sea, 
and St. Moet caught them on dry land. 

fA small fish, the Chrysofrus or Aurata, was said for- 
merly to allow women and children to take it out of the 
water, and handle it. It was sacred to Venus, and Guber- 
natis says this is why we eat fish on Friday, Venus' day. 

I Leonard Vair, an old writer, says that in 1583, there 
was a pond near a cloister in Burgundy, in which there 
were fish, corresponding in number to the monks. When a 
monk fell sick, a fish was observed to do the same, and, 
when the monk died, the fish was sure to be found dead on 
the shore. 

Closely connected with the stories of fish swallowing 
men, recounted in the present chapter, are the numerous 
tales in which fish swallow rings, pearls, or other valuables, 
and restore them, or are caught, and these gems restored. 
These tales are very ancient. §A Talmudic legend says 
Asmodeus, the evil spirit, stole from Solomon the signet- 
ring that conferred upon him so much power and wisdom. 
The evil genius threw it into the sea, but Solomon recov- 
ered it in the belly of a fish that was caught soon after. 

||A Hindoo nymph, Sakuntali, lost her ring while bath- 
ing, but found it again in the belly of a fish. ** In "Aboo- 
Seer," a ring is found in a fish's throat, and in another tale, 
a diamond worth one hundred thousand dollars. fjAnother 
Talmudic tale is of a wealthy Jew, who bought a fish, con- 
taining a wonderful diamond. This had been the property 
of a neighbor, who had sewed it into the rim of his turban, 
to keep it, as it had been predicted that all his property 
would become Joseph's. He had dropped the turban into 
the sea, and the fish swallowed the gem. 

U Polycrates, being too fortunate, was advised to cast 
away some valuable thing, and threw his ring into the sea. 
It was found, some days afterward, inside a fish that came 
to his table. 

* Jones. — Credulities, p, 54. 

+ Gul>ematls. — Zoological-Mytholo^. Ill, 1. 

* Jone3. — Credulities. 

§ Al Zamoktl. — Brewer's Readers' Hand Book. 
UGubematls.— Zool.-Mythology. 111,1. 
** Lane. — Arabian Nights. 
■H Jones. — Credulities, 107. 
'Brewer.— Readers' Hand Book, p. 353. 


*A bas-relief in tlie church of St. Maria della Anima, at 
Rome, commemorates the following occurrence: St. Ben'no 
bishop of Meissen, closed the doors of the cathedral in 1075^ 
against Henry IV., who had been excommunicated, and 
threw the key into the Elbe. On his return from Rome, he 
is said to have recovered the kej-, by directing a fisherman 
to cast his net, and then cutting open a fish that was 

St. Francis Xavier, according to Portuguese authorities, 
once dropped his crucifix while preaching, during a voyage 
to India, into the sea, but a lobster brought it to the surface 
in his claws, at the saint's earnest request. 

t So St. Cadoc is fabled to have lost his manual-book at 
sea, but it was restored by a salmon. 

§ The key of the church door at Norham, on the Tweed, 
was thrown into the river by a boy, who wished to escape 
threatened punishment. St. Cuthbert appeared in a vision 
to the priest, to inquire why vespers had not been said, and, 
on learning the loss of the key, told the priest to buy the 
first haul of fish caught in the river the next morning. In 
the stomach of a large salmon was found the key. 

I A salmon with a ring in its mouth figures in the arms 
of the city of Glasgow. A certain woman gave her lover a 
ring belonging to her husband. The latter stole it, threw 
it in the river, and required her to find it. She, in her ex- 
tremity, applied to St. Kentigern. Spottiswoode adds, " Not 
long after, as the saint walked by <Ae river, he desired a 
man who was fishing, to bring him the first fish he caught, 
and from its mouth was taken the lady's ring, which he im- 
mediately sent to her." 

A mediaeval English story is told of a knight, who threw 
a ring into the sea to avoid a bride, telling her she must 
find it. A cod-fish caught it, and brought it to the shore. 
This fish and ring appear in the arms of Rebecca Berry, in 
St. Dunstan's church, in London (Stepney). John of Hors- 
lett is said to have shot with an arrow a fish, that had in its 
stomach his lady's ring. 

In man)- Bohemian and German stories, rings lost at sea 
are restored by fish. Du Gauge reports a tradition that a 
certain gem is found in a fish's brain. 

* Jones.— Credulities, 106. 

tSikes.— British Goblins and Welsh Folk-lore. 
8 Reginald of DUrham. Jones.— Credulities, p. 105 
I Jones.— Credulities, p. 10£. 


A newspaper account was given in 1870, of the finding 
of a ring in a fish's stomach, by a fisherman of St. Johns, 
Newfoundland, that had been lost in the wreck of the "An- 
glo-Saxon," in 1861. 

Modern mythologists agree that these tales, like the Jo- 
nah stories, originated in mythical ideas. * " Out of the 
cloudy, nocturnal, or wintry ocean, comes forth the sun, the 
pearl lost in the sea, which the gold or silver fish brings 
out," says Gubernatis. 

There are many legends in folk-lore to account for the 
peculiar shapes of fish. When the fish assembled to choose 
a king, the skate delayed, to make himself pretty, and his 
mouth is now one-sided, from not being chosen king. Sev- 
eral legends are given concerning the flounder's wry mouth: 

" Haddock, cod, turbot and ling, 
Of all the fish, the sea-herring's the king. 
Up started the flouk and said, ' Here am I,' 
And ever since that his mouth stands awry." 

A Scotch rhyme= gives another legend of its crooked 
mouth, — 

" Said the trout to the fluke, 
' When did your moo crook ? 
* My moo was never even 
Since I came by John's haven.'" 

f The sole owes its shape, according to a Russian story, 
to the fact that the Queen of the Baltic ate one half of it, 
and threw the other back. Or, says another legend, it was 
restored to life, after half of it had been eaten, by the angel 

I A Ranatonga myth asserts that the knob on the head of 
a certain fish is where Ina, a goddess, stamped on it when 
it was carrying her. Another fish has a blue mouth, and 
the sole but one eye, from the same cause, and a fourth fish 
was made black for upsetting her. 

The pilot-fish has been the subject of many legends. It 
was anciently called Naticratis (ship guide), and was thought 
to guide vessels safely into port, and hence was sacred. 
Ovid says, '' Halieuticon, the pilot-fish, the companion of the 
vessels, who always follows in the white foam of the tracks 
that they make along the ocean." It was also fabled to at- 

* Zoological Mythology, Vol. II. 

+ Halston.— Russian Folk-lore, p. 330. 

X GiU.— Myths and Songs of the South Pacific, pp. 91-92. 


tend on the movements of the shark, and to guard it from 
danger, by giving it warning. Oppian says, substituting 
the whale for the shark, probably through ignorance of the 
difference between them, — 

" Bold in the front, the little pilot glides, 
Averts each danger, every motion guides; 
With grateful joy the willing whales attend. 
Observe the leader and revere the friend. " 

Seamen still think they guide sharks to their food, 
but it is only true that they attend them, in order to seize 
upon any food that may be rejected. 

A far more widely spread legend was current concerning 
the echeneis, a fish of the Remora or Sucker family. It 
was thought to adhere to the sides or bottoms of ships, im- 
peding their progress, and even stopping them. 

* Plutarch tells us this tale: " Chaeremomanus, the Trall- 
ian, when we were at a very noble fish-dinner, pointing to 


a little, long, sharp-headed fish, said the echeneis (ship- 
stopper) was like that, for he had often seen it as he sailed 
in the Sicilian sea, and wondered at its strange force, for it 
stopped the ship when under full sail, until one of the sea- 
men perceived it sticking to the outside of the ship, and 
took it off." 

Athenagus alludes to the same belief. Oppian says, 
describing its effects, — 

* Morals, Goodwin''s Trans., Vol. HI. 


" But though the canvas bellies with the blast, 
And boisterous winds bend down the cracking mast. 
The bark stands firmly rooted on the sea 
And all unmov'd, as tower, or towering tree.'' 

* Pliny says, " Why should our fleets and armadas at sea 
make such turrets on the walls and forecastles, when one 
little fish is able to arrest and stay, per force, our goodly 
and tall ships?" 

Lucan says this fish stops ships in the middle of the 
ocean, and Ovid, '' There, too, is the little sucking fish, won- 
drous to behold, a vast obstruction to ships." 

f This is alleged as a reason for the delay of Mark An- 
tony's ship in getting into action at J Actium, and this fish 
is said to have also stopped Caligula's galley at sea. 

Poets in times more modern, have alluded to this belief. 
Du Bartas says, — 

§ "The remora, fixing its weak snout 

'Gainst the moist bottom of the stormy ship. 
Stops it suddenly in midst of the fleet." 

"Tell us, O remora, in what place thou hidest 
The anchor that at one stroke stops the progress 
Of a vessel tossed by all the elements ? " 

I Mayne, an old dramatist thus sings, — 

' No remoras that stop your fleets 
Like sergeants' gallants, in the streets." 

And Spenser, — 

** "All suddenly there clove unto the keel 
A little fish that men call remora, 
Which stopp'd her course, and held her by the heel." 

And again, — 

" Strange thing, me seemeth, that so small a thing 
Should able be so great an one to wring." 

f f Many superstitions are connected with a little fish, the 
John Dory. Its name is derived from the French " Jaune 
Doree " (yellow gilt). The "doree" came, say some, from 

*Nat. Hist., Vol. XI, p. 41. 

+ Jones.— Credulities, p. 15. Pliny, Hiet. Naturalis. 

t ftlangrin. — Mysteries of the Ocean. 

§ Landrin.— Les Monstres Marins p. 65. 

8 " The at..v Watch," 1639. 

"Visions of the World's Vanity, 1591. 

■tt Jones. — Credulities, p. 53. 


adored, worshiped, and it is still hung up in places of wor- 
ship, by modern Greeks. Others say the name is irom /ani- 
tore, doorkeeper, as St. Peter was the keeper of the gates of 
heaven. It was called Peter's fish, from a legend that in its 
mouth was found the penny with which the temple tax was 
paid, and that the spots on either side of its mouth were 
caused by the apostle's thumb. * In " Metellus his Dia- 
logues " we find these lines, — 

" O superstition's dainty, Peter's fish, 
How cam'st thou here to make so goodly dish?"' 

Its name in Latin, Deus Faber (God worker), indicates 
its superior gifts. 

The haddock disputes with the John Dory the honor of 
being the fish indicated in these legends, and its spots are 
due to the same cause, according to some legends. Others 
say they were caused by St. Christopher, f A Yorkshire 
story gives another origin to these spots: "The evil spirit, 
in one of his pranks, determined to build Filey bridge for 
the destruction of ships and of sailors, and the annoyance of 
fishermen. In the progress of this work," he accidentally let 
his hammer fall into the river, and in his haste to pick it up, 
grasped a haddock instead, leaving the black marks on it." 

Haddock's bones should not be burned, in Scotland. A 
haddock once said, — 

X " Roast me an' boil me. 

But dinna burn my behns, 
Or than I'll be a stranger 
Aboot yi'r hearth-stanes." 

The flounder comes in for its share of legends. In Ice- 
land, it was called " Holy Fish." § In Finland, its white side 
is said to have been caused by the Virgin Mary's laying her 
hand on it. 

I The salmon is held in great veneration by Scotch fisher- 
men. Its tail is pointed, since Loki became a salmon, and 
was caught by that appendage while slipping through a net 
set for him by the gods. A Finnish legend says its spots 
are balls of fire, which fell from heaven and were rashly 
swallowed. It is also the fish of Wisdom. 

* Henderson. Folklore of the Northern Counties, p. 312. 

+ Hone.— Table Book. Vol. n, p. 037. 

t Brand.— Pop. Antiq. IH, p. 30-3. 

^Finnish Folk-lore, in Xotes and Oueries, December 1.5, 1883. 

(Blind. — Contemporaiy Beview, August, 1882. 


* Fionn, a Celtic hero, was cooking one, when he dropped 
a spark from it on his finger, and burned it. He hastily 
clapped the finger into his mouth, and found that he had 
acquired the gift of knowledge. 

There are other similar stories in folk-legend. The pike 
is also an important fish in legends. Monstrous and 
powerful pikes appear in f Finnish, Russian, and Lithuan- 
ian stories. In the legends of the latter people, one rules in 
a lake, and causes storms and wrecks boats. 

The herring is, in many countries, the first fish eaten on 
Easter day. At Oxford, England, it formerly graced the 
center of the table, surmounted by a corn salad. J Simrock 
says that you must eat herring or mullet on New Year's day 
in Markland, or herring-salad in Wittemberg, to have gold 
all year round. In Limburg, on New Year's day, a herring 
was formerly hung at the church door, and men tried to 
jump up and bite it, with their hands tied down. 

§ Indians on th<> Northern lakes said white-fish were the 
embodiments of a maiden, drowned in the- lake. 

The bream was called choke-children, in Cornish. || St. 
Levan caught two on one hook, three times in succession, 
after throwing them back into the water, and finally took 
them home to his sister, but they choked her children. 
This tradition is perpetuated by a carving in the Saints' 
Church. ** In Hungary, it is said to attack men vora- 

The perch is a favorite fish, in Russian legend. The hero, 
in one tale, is afraid of nothing, until a perch jumps into his 
boat, when he drowns himself. The \\Jorsh, or little perch, 
triumphs over many fish, in these legends. He gets the 
pike drunk, evades punishment, etc. 

Plutarch says, " In Gaul is a fish, the clupea, which is 
white when the moon increases, black when it wanes." 

JJiElian says the alopex swallows the hook, and then vom- 
its it up, with its own intestines, and Oppian says the trugon 
kills men with a dart. §§ The gold-fish were formerly sup- 
posed to live on gold. 

♦ Jones. — Credulities. 

+ Gubernatis.— Zoological Mythology, Vol. 11. 

t Deutsche Mvthologie, p. 56. 

8 Schoolcraft- — Algic Researches, p. 190. 

1 Jones. — Credulities, p. i9. 

*• Gubematis.— Zoological Mythology, Vol. H, p. 344. 

tt Gubernatis-— Zoological Mythology, Vol. II, p. 848. 

tt Gubernatis.— Zoological Mythology, Vol. II, p. 344. 

SS Conway.— Demonology, VoL I, p. 238. 


Kircher says flying-fish were fabled to come out of the 
sea in summer, and become birds. 

Eels are the subject of many legends. New Zealanders 
say they were once dwellers upon earth. It is a phallical 
animal. Fishermen of Folkestone formerly said, when they 
found conger-eels frozen on the snow, that they came out 
to look at the moon. Others say they are blinded by the 

In the imaginary land of Cocaigne,* the beams of the 
house are made of sturgeons, and the house is wholly built 
of fish, — 

"With dabs, with salmon, and with shad 
The houses round are fenc'd, 
Whose beams of sturgeons firm are made." 

According to another romantic legend. Carnival and 
Careme had a battle, and all the fish and sea-animals assist- 
ed the latter. He was thus attended and accoutred, — 

"All, from the matchless whale's unwieldy form 
To the brook fry that in the shallows swarra, 
Fir'd at the summons, join, a vengeful host. 
And quit th' unpeopled waters for the coast. 
Armed cap-a-pie, on signal vengeance bent, 
On a short mullet rides imperial Lent, 
His shield a cheese, a trenchant sole his blade, 
His prick-spear of well-temper'd fish-bone made, 
A ray's sharp hide, his afmor'd corse adorns. 
With tubercules all rough and horned thorns." 

• ElUs.— Early English Poets, p. 83. 



' The barnacles with them, which wheresoe'er they breed, 
On trees or rotten ships, — yet to my fens for feed 
Continually do come, and chief abode do make. 
And very hardly forc'd my plenty to forsake." 

Drayton. — Polyolbion. 

HE other animals of the sea 
were not forgotten in legend, 
and there were many supersti- 
tions connected with the ani- 
mals of the land, not hitherto 

The Argonaut, or Pompylia, 
was fabled to rise to the surface, 
raise its tentacles for masts, spread 
membrances on them for sails, and 
use oars to propel itself along. 
* Pliny says it was favorable to men 
at sea, "Oh fish, justly dear to Navi- 
gators! Thy presence assures winds 
soft and friendly! thou bringest the 
calm and thou art the sign of it! " 

f Schmidt also says the sight of a Portuguese 
Man-of-War announces a calm. Sailors gener- 
ally believe that it floats on the surface of the sea. 

Scotch peasants believed formerly that sea-crabs danced 
at the witches' sabbats. Some Russians will not eat them, 
as they say they were made by the devil. 

The turtle is the subject of various myths. Vishnu was 
a tortoise. Many peoples believed that a tortoise supported 
the earth. \ Chelone was transformed into a turtle (Che- 
lona), for laughing at Jupiter and Juno. 

♦Natural History, Bk. XI. c. 47. 

+ Seeman'B Sagen und Schlfler MHrchen. 

t Ovid. — Metamorphoses. 



Maui, the Polynesian hero, was carried to the sea by a 

* Moore says, — 

" Like the first air of morning creeping 
Into thin wreathing Red-sea shells. 
Where love himself of old lay sleeping.'' 

f Wilsford explains, " This idea was not unknown to the 
Greeks, who represented the youngest Nerites, one of the 
Cupids, as living in shells, on the shore of the Red sea." 

A Fiji god was a shell-fish, called Uva. Greenlanders 
have tales of enormous shell-fish. \ Carreri, a traveler in 
the Phillippines, in 1696, says .rings and chaplets made of 
certain shells are an antidote to poison, becoming shattered 
in its very presence. 

§ In an old work, it is said that certain shells {valuta 
musicd) found at Cura9oa, are filled with musical notes, so 
that they may be used in singing. Moore refers to this 
superstition in his ode to a sea-shell, which falls from a 
siren's bosom. 

II Scollop shells are said in another old work to be engen- 
dered solely by the dews of the air. This was anciently 
affirmed of the oyster. Pliny says the pearl oyster feeds on 
dew, which the sun ripens into pearls. Another old author 
says, " These mussels, early in the morning, when the sky is 
clear and temperate, open their mouths a little above the 
water, and most greedily swallow the dews of heaven, and 
after the measure and quantity of the dew which they swal- 
low they conceive and breed the pearl." 

** Pliny's words are, " The pearl is produced by the dews 
of heaven falling into the open shells at the breeding time; 
the quality of the pearl varies according to the amount of 
dew imbibed, being lustrous if that were pure, and dull, if it 
were foul. Cloudy weather spoils its color, lightning stop- 
ped the growth, and thunder made the shell-fish unproduc- 
tive, and to eject the hollow husks called bubbles." He 
also says they have a king who aids them to escape the div- 
ers, but if he is caught, they are easily entrapped. 

ff It is still believed in parts of the East that these pearls 

» Lalla Eookh. 

+ Nature's Secrets. 

X Landrin.— Les Monstres Marins, 

i Histoire NatureUe dea Antilles, Notes to Moore. 

I Gmelin.— Display of Heraldry. Brewer's Reader's Hand Sock, 

** Natural History, Bk. XI, c. 54. 

•tt Jones.— Broad, Broad Ocean, p. 16L 


are drops of rain swallowed by the oyster. An Oriental 
poet, quoted by Jones, *says, " Every year, on the sixteenth 
of the month Nisan, the pearl oysters rise to the sea and 
open their shells, in order to receive the rain which falls at 
that time, and the drops thus caught become pearls." 

Shakespeare was well acquainted with the superstition. 
In Richard III. (Act IV, scene 4), he says, — 

"The liquid drops of tears that you have shed 
Shall come again, transform'd to orient pearl." 

Moore alludes to it also:f 

"And precious the Tear as that rain from the sky 
Which turns into pearls as it falls in the sea." 

J Drake's sailors reported that oysters at the Cape of 
Good Hope grew on trees. This was un old superstition. 
§A sailor who visited the island of Yezo in 1645, reported 
that great quantities of oysters were found on the coast 
which were, for the most part, one and a-half ells in length. 

In the reports of the voyage of Nearchus, it was said that 
they were found, a foot in length. 

II Pliny says of "another moUusk, " The sea-pen (pinna) 
flourishes in muddy bottoms, and is never found without its 
companion, called by some pinnatheres, and by others pin- 
nophylax. It is a little sea-leek, a sort of crab, and to 
nourish themselves is the object of their union. The shell- 
fish, blind, opens, showing its body to the little fish which 
play around it. Emboldened by impunity, they fill the shell. 
At this moment the crab, which is on the watch, warns the 
sea-pen by a little bite; it closes, crushing everything found 
between its valves, and divides its prey with its companion." 

Olaus Wormsius says (1865) that the Medusae are the seed 
or spawn of the Kraken, in the existence of which beast he 
devoutly believes. 

J J An old adage says, "Whoever eats oysters on St. 
James' Day (July 25th), will never want." 

But far more wonderful legends were related concerning 
the barnacle. **Sinbad is the first to chronicle this belief. 
"And I saw a bird that cometh forth from a sea-shell, and 

• History and Mrstery of Precious Stones, p. 116. 

tLalla Kookh. 

t Goodrich. — Man upon the Sea, p. 255. 

SLandrin. — Les Monstres Marins, p. IZ. 

I Natural History, Bl£. IX, c. 67. 

♦* Lane's Aratian Nights. 

it Hampson, ilBdii ^ri Kal. 325. 



layeth its eggs, and hatcheth them upon the surface of the 
water, and never cometh forth from the sea, upon the face of 
the earth." Although Lane thinks the Nautilus is meant, we 
shall see that this resembles the stories afterward told of the 

* Boece, a Scotch author, makes an early allusion to it. 
" Some men believe that thir (these) claiks (fowls) grow on 
trees by the nebbis (bills)." f Holinshead, writing some forty 
years later says he saw the feathers " hang out of the shell 
at least two inches." 

JThe old chronicler, Giraldus, asks, " Who can marvel 
that this should be so? When our first parents were made 
of mud, how can we be surprised that a bird should be born 
of a tree?" The first complete account we have of this 
marvel is from Gerard: §" There is a small island in 
Lancashire, called the Pile of Foulden, wherein are found 
to be broken pieces of old and bruised ships, some whereof 
have been cast thither by shipwrackes, and also of the trunks 
and bodies, with the branches, of old rotten trees, cast there 
likewise; whereon is found a certain spume or froth, that in 
time breadeth into certain shells, in shape like those of a 
muskle, but sharper pointed, and of a whitish colour; one 
end whereof is fastened to the inside of the shell, even as 
the fish of oysters and muskles are; the other end is made 
fast unto the belly of a rude masse or lumpe, which in time 
cometh unto the shape and form of a bird. When it is per- 
fectly formed, the shell gapeth open, and the first thing that 
appeareth is the aforesaid lace or string; next comes the 
legs of a bird hanging out, and as it groweth greater, it 
openeth the shell by degrees, till at length it is all come 
forth, and hangeth only by the bill; in a short time after, it 
cometh to full maturity, and falleth into the sea, when it 
gathereth feathers, and groweth to a fowle bigger than a 
mallard, and less than a goose, having black legs and bill, or 
beak, and feathers black and white, spotted in such a man- 
ner as is our magpies, called in some places a pilannet; 
which the people of Lancashire call by no other name than 
a tree-goose, which place and all those parts adjoining, do 
so much abound therewith, that one of the best may be 
bought for three-pence." 

♦ Cosmographie of Albioun (1541). 

+ Chronicles of Englande, Scotlande and Irelande (1586). 
t Giraldus.— In Jones' Crediilities, p. 77. 
S Herbal (1597).— Jones' Credulities, p. 18. 


*Scaliger says; "There was brought to Francis I., a 
shell, not very large, in which was a little bird entirely 
formed. He hung to the shell by the end of his bill and 
his feet." The Abbe Valmont, Francis' confessor, thought 
these birds deposited their eggs on the surface of the water, 
where they were hatched, and then they clung to the wood. 

I Du Bartas, who records so many nautical superstitions 
of the age, thus writes: 

"So, sly Bootes, underneath him sees 
In y cycles, those goslings hatcht of trees, 
Whose fruitful leaves, falling into the water, 
Are turned (they say) to living fowles soon after. 
So rotten sides of broken ships do change 
To barnacles. Oh! transformation strange, 
'Twas first a greene tree, then a gallant hull. 
Lately a mushroom, now a flying gull." 

Cardan and Munster tell of these goose-trees and shell- 
birds, and a certain CoQnt Mayer wrote a whole volume 
concerning them, which he named "Volucris Arborea," and 
in which he goes so far as to tell the food of the shell. 
Albertus Magnus, .lEneas Sylvius, and Roger Bacon had 
long before this contested these superstitions, but Aldro- 
vandus gave graphic representations of the goose-tree. 

Another old author says, when the leaves of the tree fall 
in the water, they become fish, but when on land, a bird. 

Barentz, the JDutch navigator, again refuted the notion 
in 1594-6. But people were still credulous. Marston, in 
the 5laIcontent (1604), says: 

" Like your Scotch barnacle, now a block, 
Instantly a worm, and presently a great goose." 

And Hall,— 

i ' ' That Scottis barnacle, if I might choose. 
That of a worm doth was a winged goose." 

§Baptista Porta tells us: " Late writers report that not 
only in Scotland, but also in the River of Thames, near 
London, there is a kind of a shell-fish, in a two-leaved shell, 
that hath a foot full of plaits and wrinkles. They com- 
monly stick to the keel of some old ship. Some say they 
come of worms; some, of the boughs of trees, which fall 

'Landim^. 1S4. 

t Divine Weeks and Works. 

* Virgedemarium, Lib. IV, Sat. S. 

tNatural Magic. 


into the sea; if any of them be cast upon shore, they, die, 
but they which are swallowed still into the sea live, and 
get out of their shell, and grow to be a duck or such like 

Shakspeare alludes to this belief, in "The Tempest" 
(iv-i), where Caliban says, — 

" We shall lose our time. 
And all be turn'd to barnacles. "- 

Another old writer, quoted in the London Athenceum, 
tells us: "Fowles, lyke 'to wylde ghees, whiche growen 
wonderly upon trees, as it were nature wrought agayne 
kynde. Men of religion ete barnacles on fastynge dayes, 
bycause they ben not engendered of fiesche, wherein, as we 
thinketh, they are." 

An anonymous writer, quoted in a work cited by Land- 
rin, says: *"Near Pomonie, in Scotland, on the seashore, 
gather and breed certain birds called crabans or cravans, 
which birds are not hatched, nor have feathers, nor moult, 
but arise, grow, and are engendered by the rotting and 
decay of old timber, masts, and oars from ships, which rot 
in the sea, and breed them thus. When this old wrack of 
ships falls in the sea, it is rotted and corrupted by the salts 
of the sea, and from this decay breeds birds, hanging by 
the beaks to the wood; and when they are all covered with 
plumage, and are large and fat, then they fall into the sea; 
and then God, in his grace, restores them to their natural 

To prove the truth of these assertions, an old author 
published a book, in which he compares this miracle to the 
immaculate conception. \ Scribonius, Torquemada, and 
Parthenopex allude to the superstition. 

J Butler sarcastically speaks of those 

"Who, from the most refined of saints. 
As naturally grow miscreants 
As barnacles turned Soland geese 
In the islands of the Orcades." 

Southey defines the word "Barnacle: — A bird breeding 
on old ships' bottoms." 

§ Sir Robert Moray, in a scientific paper, in 1678, writes: 

* Les Monstres Marins, p. 130. 

+ Landriu. — Les Monstres Marins, 131. 


STransaotioQS of the Boyal Society. 


"In every shell that I opened, I found a perfect sea-fowl; 
the little bill, like that of a goose, the eyes marked, the 
head, neck, breast, wings, and feet formed; the feathers 
everywhere perfectly shaped and blackish-colored, and the 
feet like those of a water-fowl." 

* Another old writer says: " There is the bird engendered 
by the sea, out of timber by long lying in the sea. Some call 
these birds clakes, and soland geese, and puffins; others, 
barnacles; we call th&m girritin." 

Turner, an English naturalist, thus wrote: "When, at a 
certain time, an old ship, a plank, or a pine mast rots in the 
sea, something like fungus at first breaks out therefrom, 
which at length puts on the manifest form of birds." He 
also gives the testimony of a Scotch physician, Octavianus: 
" This clergyman then professed himself ready to take his 
oath upon the gospels, that what Gyraldus had related of 
the generation of these birds was most true, for he himself 
had seen with his eyes, and also handled, these half-formed 

So late as 1801, there was exhibited in London the 
" Wonderful Goose-tree, or Barnacle-tree, a tree bearing 
geese, taken out of the water." 

Notwithstanding this mass of testimony, it is well known 
that the resemblance of the barnacle to a bird is very slight 
indeed, and, if closely observed, would fail to give rise to 
such beliefs. Whence then did they originate? Imperfect 
observation doubtless strengthened the notion, but could 
hardly have given it birth. Dr. Brewer is perhaps right in 
attributing the whole superstition to a linguistic error. The 
bird meant, in the greater part of these accounts, is the 
soland goose, although the writer in Duret says it is the 
Black Diver. This bird is in Latin bertiacula, while per- 
nacula means a small limpet. From these to the French 
bernacle, Portuguese bernaca, and finally to the Scotch 
bren-dake, the name of this goose, is not an unlikely transi- 

Superstitions concerning birds, both of the sea and of the 
land, have been numerous. Many of these have been re- 
counted. Divination b}'' the flight of birds was a favorite 
method in antiquity. Sailors and nautical men, particu- 
larly, watched sea and land birds for indications of pros- 
perous voyages and favoring winds, f As Aristophanes says: 

*K. Flaherty.— DescriptiOQ ot V/est Connaught (168i). 
+ Aves, I, 657. 


" From birds in sailing, men instruction take. 
Now lie in port, now sail, and profit make." 

As they were imagined to fly through the air to heaven, 
they easily became messengers or diviners of the will of 
the gods. Du Cange says the custom was continued to the 
middle ages, and a Tuscan author says the peasants still 
augur the coming weather by the song of the birds. Their 
sensitiveness to atmospherical changes makes them good 
barometers. We have seen them prominent as storm makers 
and calm bringers, but there are other superstitions con- 
nected with them. 

* The kingfisher boded good or evil, as its cry was to the 
right or left, said negroes of West Africa. 

f In Oxfordshire, England, fishermen say that a king- 
fisher, suspended to the mast by its beak, will swing its 
breast in the direction of a coming wind. So Shakspeare, 
in "King Lear," — 

" Disown, aifirm, and turn their halcyon beaks 
With every gale and vary of their masters." 

I Dyer says it is still seen suspended in cabins on the sea 
shore, and Collin de Plancy says this is still a belief in France. 
§Stover writes in 1599, — 

" Or as a halcyon with her turning breast 
Demonstrates wind from wind, and east from west." 

And Marlow, in the "Jew of Malta" (1633), — 

" But how now stands the wind? 
Into what corner peers my halcyon's bill?" 

I Sir Thomas Browne, in " Vulgar Errors," remarks, "That 
a kingfisher hanged by the bill sheweth what quarter the 
wind is by an occult and secret property, converting the 
breast to that part of the horizon from whence the wind 
doth blow. This is a received opinion, and very strange, 
introducing natural weather-cocks and extending magnetical 
positions as far as animal natures— a conceit supported 
chiefly by present practice, yet not made out b}' reason nor 

Kircher says the sea-swallow and the orbis hung up by 

* Burton. — Wit and Wisdom from West Africa, 
+ Jones. — Credulities, p. 8. 

* English Folk-lore. 

$ Life and Death of Sir Thomas WolRoy, Cardinal. 
I Book in, Chapter 10. 


"^.e back will point the bill to the wind. He says the custom 
irose from hanging these birds up, expecting that they 
would renew their feathers, as if alive. 

* The kingfisher was formerly kept in chests to keep off 

f Moore's lines, — 

"And weary as that bird of Thrace 
Whose pinions know no resting place," 

refer to the kingfisher. J A traveler at Constantinople 
says immense numbers of aquatic birds appeared on the 
shores of the Black sea, and were deemed a bad omen, being 
the souls of certain persons in purgatory, "Ames Damnees." 

§Cheever alludes to this: "If the spirits of those whom 
Moslem jealousy have murdered and sunk in the Bosphorus, 
still float the stream in the form of complaining birds, which 
never rest," etc. 

The Fish-hawk and the Gurnet were esteemed bringers of 
good luck to English fishermen. Wilson says: 

"God bless the Fish-hawk and the Fisher." 

||So with the tern, among northern fishermen, 

" Let nimble tern, and screaming gull 
Fly round and round, our net is full." 

And the Osprey, on our own coast, — 

" The Osprey sails above the sound, 

The Geese are gone, the gulls are flying, 
The herring-shoals swarm thick around, 

The nets are launched, the boats are plying." 

This bird was also able to fascinate the fish, and Shaks- 
peare is supposed to allude to this in Coriolanus, Act IV, 
scene 7. ** While Drayton says, — 

"The Osprey, oft here seen, though seldom here it breeds, 
Which over them the fish no sooner do espy, 
But betwixt him and them by an antipathy. 
Turning their bellies up, as though their death they saw. 
They at his pleasure lie, to stuff his gluttonous maw." 

* Sir Thomas Browne.— Vulgar Errors. 

+ Lalla Rookh. 

t De Morray.— Constantinople Ancient and Modem, Vol. I, p. 137. 

g Cheever.— Sea and Shore (1827). 

IJones.— Credulitiea, p. 9. 

" Polj-olbion, XXV. 


There was an old superstition that gulls were never setn 

" The stricken sea-mew dives that none may see her bleed." 

During the middle ages, shooting stars were supposed tq 
be the half digested food of winter gulls. 

On the Croisic coast of Brittany, women go to the sea. 
shore, dressed in their finest apparel, and, strewing the waves 
with flowers, say to the gulls: 

" Goelans, Goelans, bring us back our children and our 
husbands, from the sea." 

* Pennant says: "The great auk is a bird observed by 
seamen never to wander beyond soundings; and, according 
to its appearance, they direct their measures, being then 
assured that land is not very remote." 

The tropic-bird was reverenced by Fijians. Ellis says 
that, on one occasion, one of these birds perched on the 
mast of a boat, when all the natives fell down and wor- 
shiped it. 

The ancients believed that the petrel hatched its eggs 
under its wings, and never rested. The albatross is believed 
by sailors to sleep on the wing. The eider-duck is sacred 
to St. Cuthbert, and is not eaten in many parts of England. 
fA sea-bird called the lavy was thought to indicate the 
weather by its motions, and was watched by Hefcr-les 
islanders for that reason. 

J Chinese junks frequently carry at their sterns a broad 
and high board, having on it a representation of a bird, 
which thej' call Foong, a sort of phoenix. It stands on a 
rock in a stormy sea, and is regarded as an emblem of 
speed and safet)', materially aiding the ship in her progress. 

In Scotch legend, the water-spirit comes as a bird, the 
§ Boobrie. The daughters of Lir, a Celtic Neptune, were 
traditionall}- turned into sea-birds. 

"And we live in the water forever, 
By tempests driven from shore to shore." 

So also Alcyon and Ceyx, and the Meleagrides were 
turned into sea-birds. Amber was said to be a concretion 
of the tears of the latter. 


+ Smyth.— Sailors' Word Boos. 

t Jones. — Creilulitie^, 47. 

sCampbeil. — Stories of W. Highlands. 



/ - 





' 'Around thee shall glisten the loveliest amber 
That ever the sorrowing sea-birds have wept. " 

*The Ahts of Nootka Sound say the loon gets its plaint- 
ive cry from its being the soul of a young man, whost 
tongue was cut out by a mischievous fiend, so that he could 
only utter such a cry. 

We must not forget the Rukh or Roc, which, in Sindbad's 
third voyage, crushes ships with stones. El Wardee relates 
similar stories. 

Land-birds have also been the subjects of man)' super- 
stitious ideas, f Swallows were, in antiquity, thought un- 
lucky at sea, although they are lucky on shore. Cleopatra 
abandoned a voyage, on seeing a swallow at the masthead 
of her vessel. Mancinus, a Roman consul, presaged defeat 
from one of these alighting on the antenna of his galley; 
and a similar omen led soothsayers to predict the speedy 
death of Mark Antony. 

JShakspeare alludes to the superstition; 

" Swallows have built 
In Cleopatra's sails their nests; the augurers 
Say, they know not — they cannot tell; look grimly. 
And dare not speak their knowledge." 

It was at one time thought that these birds, in their 
migrations, passed under the waters in the shape of an 
animated ball. § Olaus Magnus says they fall down into 
lakes and pools during winter, and are sometimes- fished 
out by fishermen, in the form of lumps or clods of a soft, 
sloughing substance. 

II The Roman general, Fabian, regarded it as a favorable 
omen that a Buteo, or kite, perched on the mast of his 

** Pliny says crows were used as guides bj' navigators, as 
thej' were carried out to sea by the inhabitants of Tapro- 
bane, and then let loose, to indicate the direction of the 
land by their flight. Norsemen used them for this pur- 
pose. Flock, in his voyage from Shetland to Iceland, is 
said to have let them fly when at sea. 

The crow and the raven are proverbially birds of ill- 

• Bancroft.— Native Races, in, p. 97. 

+ See Chapter XIII. 

X Antony and Cleopatra, IV, 13. 

t History of the Goths. 

•• Jones. — Credulities. 

■H Natural History, VI, 24. 


omen. Cicero regarded it as such that a raven perched on 
the ship that bore him across the sea. 

* An old Scotch ballad illustrates this belief. The crow 

"As I sat on the deep sea-sand, 
I saw a fair ship right at hand; 
I waved my wings, I beat my beal£, 
The ship sank — and I heard a shriek." 

f In China, when crows perch on the mast, crumbs of 
bread are thrown to them, to gain favorable winds. This 
is illustrated by a tale in Giles' collection, where a man is 
changed into a crow, and is sustained by being fed, to insure 
good winds. 

JAnother old ballad shows the raven's bad character: 

" 'Ah! well-a-day,' the sailor said, 
' Some danger doth impend; 
Three ravens sit in yonder glade, 
And evil will happen, I'm sore afraid, 
Ere we reach our journey's end.' 

'And what have the ravens with us to do? 

Does their sight betoken us evil? ' 
' To see one raven's lucky, 'tis true. 
But it's certain misfortune to light upon two. 

And meeting with three is the devil.' " 

§ Archdeacon Gray says sailors on the Yangtze, in China, 
feared disastrous consequences in case the ravens were 
troubled, passengers having threatened to shoot them. 

The magpie shared this evil reputation with these two 
birds. Sir Walter Scott relates a story of traveling in a 
stagecoach with a seaman, who, seeing a magpie, said, " I 
wish we may have good luck on our journey; there is a 
magpie." Upon inquiring, he further said: "All the world 
agree that one magpie bodes ill-luck, two are not bad, but 
three are the very devil itself. I never saw three magpies 
but twice, and once I nearly lost my vessel, and afterwards 
I fell off my horse and was hurt." Bourne says that three 
magpies aug-ur a successful voyage. 

The wren was long a sacred bird in England. | A York- 
shire couplet runs thus: 

" He that hurts a robin or a wren, 
Will never prosper, sea nor land." 

♦The Twa Corbies. 

+ Tales by Sung Ping Ling.— Giles' Translation. 

$C. G. Lewis. — "Bill Jones," in Jones' Credulities, p. 10. 

§ Jones. — Credulities, 47. 

D Folk-lore Record. 


*On the Isle of Man, it was formerly a custom to hunt 
the wren on a certain day. Feathers acquired at this time 
were treasured up as charms against shipwreck. McTag- 
gart, a local author, says: "Manx fishermen dare not go to 
sea without one of these birds, taken dead with them, for 
fear of disaster and storm. Their tradition is of a sea- 
spirit, that haunted the herring-track, attended always by 
storms, and at last assumed the figure of a wren, and flew 
away, so that they think that when they have a dead wren 
with them, all is snug." 

f We are told in an old work: "When there are great 
storms upon the coasts of Lybia Deserta, the sea casts up 
great tunnies on the shore, and these breed worms for 
fourteen days, and grow to be as big as flies, then as 
locusts, which, being augmented in bigness, become birds 
called quails." 

A small land-bird came aboard the Vanguard, Nelson's 
flag-ship, at the battle of the Nile, and was deemed a prom- 
ise of victor}', and a happy omen. J Miss Knight sa3's she 
saw it hopping about, petted and well-cared for. 

A notable instance of the belief in bird-omens is seen in 
the following story by Captain Johnson, of the Norwegian 
bark Ellen, who, in 1857, picked up forty-nine^ of the 
wrecked crew of the steamer Central America. §"Just 
before six o'clock in the afternoon of September 12, I was 
standing on the quarter-deck. Suddenly a bird flew around 
me, first grazing my right shoulder. It soon flew at my 
face, when I caught hold of it, and made it a prisoner. The 
bird was unlike any bird I ever saw, nor do I know its 
name. As it strove to bite everybody, I had its head after- 
ward cut off, and the body thrown overboard. When the 
bird flew to the ship, the bark was going a little north of 
northeast. / regarded the appearance of the bird as an omen, 
and an indication to me that I must change m)' course. I 
accordingly headed to the eastward direct. I should not 
have deviated from my course, had not the bird visited the 
ship, and, had it not been for this change of course, I should 
not have fallen in with the forty-nine passengers, whom I 
fortunatel)' saved from certain death." 

The dove was long a bird of good omen at sea. Among 
Roman sailors, it was the custom to let one fly after the 

* Dyer.— English Folk-lore. 

t Magick of Kirwan, King^ of Persia, and of Harpocratian (1685). 

tAutobiography, in Jones' Ci-edulitics, 14. 

§ Jones. — Credulities, 12-13. 



sacrifice, when the ship was leaving port, as its " homing ' 
was deemed a certain omen of a speedy voyage. Cortez's 
sailors in 1590, augured well of its appearance. The ac- 
count says: "Their victuals waxed skant, and their fresh 
water wanted, so that they prepared themselves to die. 
Some cursyed their fortune, others asked mercie at God's 
hand, looking for death, and to be eaten of the Carives. 
And in this time of tribulation came a dove flying to the 
shippe, being on Good Friday at sunsett; and sat him on 
the shippe top — whereat they were all comforted and took 
it for a miracle, and good token, and some wept with joy; 
some said that God had sent the dove to comfort them; 
others said that land was neare, and all gave heartie thanks 
to God, directing their course the way the dove flew." 

* In the legends of Queen Radegonde, she comes in the 
shape of a dove, to rescue sailors from wreck. In an Italian 
folk-lore story, a dove perches on the crosstrees of a ship, 
and is received as a favorable omen. A dove, we remember, 
guided the Argonauts through the Symplegades, and another 
bore good tidings of land to Noah. Vellerus Paterculus 
says a dove guided Greek colonists to Cumae. Thus it an- 
ciently came to be a mariner's bird. That fanciful mythol- 
ogist, Bryant, thinks the dove typifies the ark (as do a hun- 
dred other things to him), and its name Jonah, is the same 
as Jonah, and also as the Yoni, the mother of all. It has 
always been a bird of mystery — the incarnation of the Holy 
Ghost, and the sign of immortality to the christian. 

Four-footed animals and insects are also connected witl 
superstitious beliefs among sailors.f Many things have al 
ready been said about the cat, the wickedest animal in folk 
lore. It was not only a storm-bringer, but could bring gooc? 
or evil luck. 

J Rockwell tell us: "Two men fell from the mast head 
(of a naval vessel) and were killed. The crew, finding that 
one of their number had killed a cat, regarded him as the 
bringer of misfortune, and he had to be flogged and finally 
set on shore to appease them." We have given some rea- 
sons for the cat's unpopularity at sea. §Karl Blind says much 
of it, in connection with Shetland Folk-lore. We know from 
Egyptian sculptures that the cat ancienth^ represented the"" 
sun and the moon, its glowing eye figuring them. So 

• Gubernatis.— Zoological Mrthology, Vol. 11, p. 303. 
+ See Chapters II. Ill and XIII. 

t Sketches of Foreign Travels, 1842. 

i Contemporary Review, Septemtjer 1882. 


Freya, Norse Sun goddess, was drawn by cats. She is also 
a water-goddess, and in Shetland is called Vana-dis, water- 
goddess. Vanega is a Shetland word for cat, its true name 
being taboed at sea. It means "she that goes on the water." 
Thor must put a cat into Loki's dwelling. This cat is the sea 
itself, as it became the great Midgard serpent, the Oceanus 
of the North. 

There are Irish legends of sea cats, traceable to Teutonic 
myths, and degenerated to witch-familiars. 

Dogs are unlucky among fishermen, and even their names 
may not be mentioned among many of them. It is unlucky 
to meet the spectral dog Shony* that comes out of the sea 
on the Cornish coast, also " Shock," similarly appearing in 
Norfolk, and the Maauthe Doog (Gwylligi) in Wales. 

f Thevenot says of Baruch, in Syria, that there is "a river 
called the ' Dog's river,' beyond doubt because there is a 
ring cut into the rock, to which is fastened a dog, cut in the 
same rock, and which would bark by enchantment, when 
any fleet came, and he could be heard four leagues off." 

J The hare, as we have already seen, was also an unfort- 
unate animal to sailors. An old work tells us: §"The fishers 
look on all mankeens (hares) to be devils and witches, and, 
if they but see a sight of a dead mankeen, it sets them a 
trembling." Brand says it is unlucky still for fishermen to 
meet a hare, a wolf, or a pig. 

In Cornwall, fishermen say a white hare often appears on 
the pier, foretelling a storm. | Galway fishermen say that 
if the hare is seen sitting still, or running before them to 
the sea, it is a good sign, but if run across their path, it is 
an unfortunate omen. They will not go out in their boats 
if they see a fox before starting. So rival fishermen have 
been known to hang up a dead fox. 

Pigs share in all this ill character. Scotch fishermen do 
not want to hear them named. Certain fishermen of New 
Haven found a pig among their fishing-gear, and would not 
fish that day. ** Filey fishermen will not go out, if they 
meet a pig first. 

Plutarch, in speaking of the report that the skin of a 
sea-calf would keep off lightning, adds to " it the skin of a 

♦Sikes.— British Goblins and Welsh Folk-lore. 

+ Travels. 

t See Chapter III. 

§ Brand. — Popular Antiquities, III, 201. 

B Folk-lore Record. 

** Dyer.— English Folk-lore, p. 116. 


lynx, that sailors cover the ends of their sails with, when 

It was long thought that rats would desert a sinking 
ship. A writer in the Nautical Magazine (1875) says they 
have been seen leaving a leaky ship by a hawser tied to the 
dock, and by swimming. *Shakspeare alludes to this 

belief, — 

"A very carcass of a boat, 
Nor tackle, nor mast — the very rats 
Instinctively had quit it." 

And Swift says: 

' 'And fly like rats from sinking ships. " 

It is quite reasonable to suppose that the instinct of 
these animals may have led them to abandon a ship that 
had much water in the hold, as then they would suffer from 

f A singular legend is reported of a mythical Icelandic 
sea-animal, the " fledermaus " (not the bat). It must be 
caught in a net made of maiden's hair, set where there is 
gold in the sea; and then, if put into a box, lying on 
maiden's hair, with a coin in it, a similar coin will be 
attracted each night. If not thrown away before the 
owner's death, it will escape to the sea, and cause storms 
and floods. 

J La Perouse says: "We found millions of cockroaches 
in the bread-room, so that the holy father, who officiated as 
chaplain, was obliged to have recourse to exorcisms to drive 
them out." 

Fleas were anciently reported to infest fish. § Shaks- 
peare is supposed to allude to this in Henry IV., Part i, 
and there is at the present da}-, a fancy among fishermen, 
on the Norfolk coast, that fish and fleas appear at the same 
time. II An old fisherman said: "Lawk, sir, times is as you 
may look in my flannel shirt, and scarce see a flea, and then 
there ain't but a very few herrin's; but times that'll be 
right alive with 'em, and then there's sartin to be a sight 
o' fish! " 

**A Berber superstition says God made gnats, to swallow 

'Tempest, I, 2. 

•t Maurer.— Islandlsche Sagen. 92. " Flathmans." 

» Voyages. 

S Act II, scene 1. 

I Dyer.— Folk-lore of Shakspeare 0883), 499. 

•» D. Hay.— Morocco and its Tribes (18it), in Melusine, March, 1885. 


the water (then fresh) of the rebellious ocean; then, when 
it promised obedience, caused them to vomit it up; but it 
is, since then, salt. 

*Don Quixote says: "Thou must know, Sancho, 
that one of the signs by which the Spaniards, and those 
who trade by sea to the East Indies, discover they have 
passed the line of which I told thee, as then all the vermin 
upon every one in the ship die, nor, after passing it, is one 
to be found in the vessel, though they would give its weight 
in gold for it." 

*Don Quixote, Part U, Chapter 28. 

fin Brittany, butterflies flying over the sea announce 
a calm. 

When the catch of cuttle-fish is good, | Asturian 
fishermen say it is a sign of bad weather. , 

They also say that a certain kind of crab is nourished 
by the bodies of the drowned, and kill every one they 

^ At Noirmoutiers, the salt curers say they will have 
little salt when the cuttle-fish are scarce. 

§ In Sicily, it is believed that a small piece of cuttle- 
fish, thrown into the sea, will multiply into thousands of 

II There also, the hippocampus, pinned to a ribbon, is 
worn as a charm by recreant ones who seek to conceal 
their amours. 

The star-fish is also a charm in Brittany, being called 
St. Gildas' flower, and worn by children to keep them 
from being afraid. 

t Sebillot, Croyances ear la Mer, 222, Vol. II. 

± B. Vignon, Folk-Lora de la Mar, 11, 24. 

5 BoUand, Fanne de la France, III, 187. 

§ PittiS, Vei e Coetumi III, 187. || Do., IV., 878. 




" How, by some desert isle or key 
Where Spaniards wrought their cruelty, 
Strange nightly sounds of woe and fear, 
Appall'd the list'ning Buccanier, 
The groan of grief, the shriek of pain. 
Ring from the moonlight groves of cane.'' 

Scott,— Rokiby, II, 12. 

' Does not the heart of the brave man fail. 
And terror blanch his countenance pale. 
As we sit on the end of the yard and the spar. 
In circles of fire, in the ominous air?" 

Ayres, — Legends of Montauk, 

HE sailor imagined the world 
of waters peopled with beings 
of an ethereal kind, unsubstan- 
tial spectres, ghostly appari- 
tions, and weird forms, animate 
and inanimate, shadow)- lands, 
and imaginary countries. 

Apparitions were formerly com- 
mon at sea. The ancient Greek 
navigators, accustomed to material- 
ize all physical phenomena, often 
beheld them on land and at sea. 
Their deities and semi-deities fre- 
quently appeared in times of danger. 
-j«» * Appolonius says the Argonauts 

_^'^^ became involved in a dense fog, when after 
yi- ^ praying to Apollo, he appeared among the 
clouds and lit up the way with an arrow from 
his bow. 
To Telemachus, Vi'andering in distress, appears, as Homer 
says, Eidothea, — 

* Jones.— Broad, Broad Ocean, p, 232. 



• " When lo! a bright cerulean form ap:-"^". 
The fair Eidothea, to dispel my ftars; 
Proteus her sire divine." 

And so to Ulysses, when shipwrecked, Leucothea came, 
bring-inga life-saving veil, that enabled him to reach the 
shore, — 

t "Swift as a sea-mew springing from the flood, 
All radiant on the raft, the goddess stood." 

Menelaus, in Euripides' " Orestes," is made to say, — 

' ' for from the waves 
The sailors' prophet, Glaucus, who unfolds," etc. 

And ApoUonius, in the "Argonauts," says he was the 
comforting apparition seen by sailors in distress. 

In the "^neid,"Somnus appears in the guise of Phor-' 
das, and gains possession of the helm, by casting Palinurus 

Apparitions of the Virgin and saints on shipboard are 
recorded in numerous Middle Age legends. Jin the 
eleventh century, an angel appeared to ./Ethelsige in a 
storm, and enjoined him to keep the Feast of the Concep- 
tion. On his promising to do -so, the storm ceased. 

A crusading fleet set sail from Dartmouth, in 1 190, to 
carry the troops of Richard I. from Marseilles to the Holy 
Land. One of them had a visit from St. Thomas of Canter- 
bury, St. Edmund, and St. Nicholas, during a storm. 

A twelfth century legend of Marseilles § chronicles the 
appearance of Notre Dame de la Garde upon the summit of 
a rock in the harbor, to aid a fisherman whose boat was in 
peril, and the same luminous apparition is said to have been 
seen by others. At one time, she saved a storm-beaten 
ship, by taking the helm in her own hands. 

II In 1226, the Virgin is said to have appeared to Lord 
Salisbury at sea, in a storm, shielding a light. On his vow- 
ing a taper to her shrine, the gale abated. 

Saint Cuthbert appeared to the crew who were carrying 
his body away. ** " And also the same shippe that they were 
in, by the grete storme and strong raging of the sea, as is 
aforesaid, was turned on one syde, and the booke of the 

♦Pope.— Homer's Odyssey, Bk. IV. 

+ Pope,— Odessy, Bk. V. 

t Jones. — Oredulities of All Ages. Ch. 1. 

§ Collin de Plancv.— Legendes Pieuses du Moyen Age, 

I Jones.— Credulities. Ch. 1. 

*♦ Oironlcles of the Monastery of Durham. 


Holie Evangeliste-fell out of the shyppe into the bottom of 
the sea. The whicV. booke, being all adorned with guild 
and presious stones of />.? outsyde, and they being all 
troubled with great sorrow for the loe<;e of the said booke, 
one Hunredin, being admonished and commanded by the 
vision of Sancte Cuthbert to seeke the booke that was lost 
in the sea, iij (3) miles and more from the land, and as they 
were' so admonishede, they found the booke much more 
beautiful than before." 

We have already related the legend concerning the ap- 
pearance of Jakushai Niurai, a Japanese saint, to a devoted 
priest on board a storm-beaten junk, and further instances 
of apparitions of saints are given in the chapter devoted to 

* Archbishop Bruno, of Wurtzburg, saw a spectral visi- 
tant, while at sea with Henry III., which announced itself 
as his evil genius, and he died shortlj' afterward. 

f The crew of a French crigantine at Zante, averred they 
saw the figure of a horned and monstrous seaman plunge 
into the water with one of the crew, who had defied the 
Virgin bj' playing dice. 

In Norse legend, Thor appeared to King Olaf Tryggvason 
in the guise of a red-bearded man, boarded his ship, 
laughed and joked with the crew, and finally jumped over- 

We find among early navigators, an almost universal be- 
lief in a spectre at the Cape of Good Hope. 

The spectre appears thus in the immortal song of the 
Lusian bard, — 

X " Robust and vigorous in the air appear'd, 
Enormous and of stature very tall, 
The visage grim, and with squalid beard. 

The eyes were hollow, and the gestures all 
Threatening and bad, the color pale and sear*d." 

He threatens ships with destruction. 

"The next proud fleet that think my drear domain 
With daring hand t'invade, and hoist the streaming vane. 
That gallant navy, by my whirlwinds toss'd. 
And varying seas, shall perish on my coast." 

Thus this cape, the place of the punishment of the 
spectre captain, is also that of Adamastor, the cape spectre, 

* Grant.— Mvsteries of all Nations. 293. 
+ See Chap. U. 

t Camoens.— LusJad. Canto V. 


and to this day, the mariner, beating about its windy head- 
lands, sees, spread over its flat tops, the "Devil's Table- 
cloth,'' cloudy premonitor of coming tempest and possible 

Around it and the opposite cape have for years clustered 
the legends of sailors, and many still refer to wonderful 
experiences in "coming round the capes." 

There were other spectres that terrified the mariner. 
*Scot says: "Innumerable are the reports of accidents unto 
such as frequent the seas, as fishermen and sailors, who 
discourse of noises, flashes, shadows, echoes, and other 
things, nightly seen or heard upon the waters." 

Ghosts are encountered at sea. fWe read in an old 
work: "I look upon sailors to care as little of what 
becomes of themselves as any people under the sun; yet no 
people are so much terrified at the thought of an appa- 
rition. Their sea-songs are full of them; they firmly 
believe in their existence, and honest Jack Tar shall be 
more frightened at the glimmering of the moon upon the 
tackling of a ship, than he would be if a Frenchman were 
to place a blunderbuss at his head." 

The same work tells us a tale of a ship's crew that had 
not only seen, but smelted a ghost. A few judicious lashes 
dispelled the belief, but the smell proceeded from a dead 
rat, found in the place indicated as a haunt of the ghost. 

JAn anecdote is related, in Moore's life of Byron, of a 
Captain Kidd. He told Byron that the ghost of his 
brother (then in India) visited him at sea, and lay down in 
his bunk, leaving the blankets damp with sea-water. He 
afterward fouiid that his brother was drowned at that exact 
hour and night. 

§We find a nautical ghost as early as the time of 
Columbus: " The prince would have gone there in person, 
if it had not been that one of the crew of the galley of 
the marquis had said, more than a month before, that 
there appeared' to him three times, in a nocturnal vision, a 
woman dressed in white, who said to him that he should 
say to the prince that he should take good care of his life, 
that he should not place his person in danger by sea, above 
all on St. Michael's day; or, otherwise that he should 
receive some harm." 

• Scot.— Diet, of Witchcraft, 1065, in Jones' Credulities, 7. 

+ New Catalogue of Vulgar Errors (1761), in Jones' Credulities, 86. 

t Jones.— Credulities, 87. 

S Memoires de Guillaume de Villeneuve (1195). 


* Cotton Mather tells us of a spectre that visited a 
colonial ship, carrying off, in a ghostly canoe, seven of the 
crew at a time. He also says: ''Many persons, who have 
died at sea, have been seen, within a day of their death, by 
friends at home." 

Mary Howitt relates a story of a remarkable vision, as 
seen by Captain Rogers, R. N., who, in 1664, was in com- 
mand of the " Society," bound from England to Virginia. 
He was heading in for the capes, and was, as he reckoned, 
after heaving the lead, three hundred miles from them. A 
■vision appeared to him in the night, telling him to turn out 
and look about. He did so, found all alert, and retired 
again. The vision appeared again, and told him to heave 
the lead. He arose, caused the lead to be cast, and found 
but seveti fathoms. Greatly frightened, he tacked ship, and 
the daylight showed him to be under the capes, instead of 
two hundred miles at sea. 

In Sandys' Ovid (1632), a story is told of- an old Bristol 
quartermaster, who saw the spectres of four Bristol witches 
playing dice in the cock-pit of his ship, at Gibraltar. They, 
perceiving him, disappeared, leaving him lame, and the 
ship was said to have been mysteriously stopped at sea by 
their power. 

fSir Walter Scott has a story of the captain of an 
English ship, who was assured by his crew of the nightly 
visit of the ghost of a murdered sailor. The crew refused 
to sail, but a close watch resulted in catching a somnam- 
bulist. Scott relates another incident of a captain who 
killed a man in a fit of anger, and, on his threatening to 
haunt him, cooked his body in the slave kettle. The crew 
believed that the murdered man took his trick at the wheel 
and on the yards. The captain, troubled by his conscience 
and the man's ghost, finally jumped overboard, when, as he 
sank, he threw up his arms, and exclaimed, " Bill is with 
me now! " 

t Scott also tells us of a Mrs. Leake}"-, who was said to 
have appeared after her death, standing on deck near the 
mast of her son's ship, raising storms by her incantations, 
and eventually wrecking the ship. 

Glover, in a poem, "Admiral Hosier's Ghost," embodies 
an old belief concerning the wonderful appearance of the 

* Magnalia Christi Americana. 

■t Scott.— Letters on Demonology and Witcberaf t, p. Xa 
t Notes to Rokeby, 16. 


brave old admiral and all his fleet, after the taking of Porto 
Bello, in 1740. He had been refused permission to assault 
the place, and, when his successor took it, — 

"A sad troop of ghosts appeared, 

- All in dreamy hammocks shrouded. " 

Many West India Keys were formerly supposed to be 
the haunts of ghosts of murdered men, and Coffin Key was 
especially feared by sailors after sunset. Sir Walter Scott 
says the Buccanneers sometimes killed a Spaniard or a slave, 
and buried him with their spirits, believing that his ghost 
would haunt the spot, and keep away treasure hunters. 

*" Trust not, would his experience say. 
Captain or comrade with your prey. 
But seek some charnel, when at full. 
The moon gilds skeleton and skull. 
There dig, and tomb your precious heap, 
And bid the dead your treasure keep. 
* * * * kill some slave 
Or prisoner on the treasure grave, 
And bid his discontented ghost. 
Stalk nightly on his lonely post." 

Caves in the shores of the Caspian were haunted by ap- 
paritions, in the belief of mariners of fifty years ago, and 
Moore says, — 

\ "And such the strange, mysterious din. 
At times throughout those caverns roll'd. 
And such the fearful wonders told. 
Of restless sprites imprison'd there 
That bold were Moslem who would dare. 
At twilight hour, to steer his skiff, 
Beneath the Gheber's lonely cliff." 

J An old traveler tells us; " There is in this neighborhood 
an extraordinary hill, the Kobe Guebr, or the Guebre's 
mountain. It is superstitiously held to be the residence of 
deaves, or spirits, and many marv^elous stories are recounted 
of the injury and witchcraft suffered by those who essayed 
in former days to ascend or explore it." 

§ In Brand's "Antiquities" there is a ludicrous tale of a 
sea-ghost. The ship's cook, a lame man, died while at sea, 
and was thrown overboard. Some days afterward his ghost 

* Kokeby, II, Canto 18. See also II, Canto 12 and Note 19. 

+ Lalla Eookh. 

t Pottinger.— " Beluchlstan." 

t Vnl TIT Ti S.1. 


was seen, walking on the water, ahead of the ship. On 
coming up with it, it proved to be part of a ship's mast, 
with the top attached, that simulated the lame man's walk 
by bobbing up and down on the waves. 

This nautical ghost is often a malevolent spirit, as in 
Shelley's " Revolt of Islam,"— 

" The captain stood 
Aloof, and whispering to the pilot, said, 
'Alas! alas! I fear we are pursued 
By wicked ghosts. A phantom of the dead. 
The night before we sail'd, came to my bed 
In dreams like that.'" 

* Marryat relates a sailor story of a murdered man's 
ghost appearing every night, and calling all hands to witness 
a piratical scene of murder, formerly committed on board 
the ship in which he appeared. 

f There is an account of the appearance, to an officer of a 
man-of-war, of his sister's ghost. He became unaccountably 
insensible, when the spectre touched him with her cold 
hand. She died the same hour, and on the next cruise he 
said he saw her again, this time disappearing over the ship's 
side during a storm. He lost his life shortly after, in the 
same manner. JA similar tale is told of a brother's ghost 
visiting an officer, at the hour of his death. 

§ Symondson tells of the visit of the ghost of a former 
captain of the ship, at one time, to certain members of the 
crew, to prescribe a change of course, at another in wet and 
calm weather, quietly seated in his usual place on the poop- 

II Cheever says: "The sailor is a profound believer in 
ghosts. One of these nocturnal visitants was supposed to 
visit our ship. It was with the utmost difficult)^ that the 
crew could be made to turn in at night. You might have 
seen the most athletic, stout-hearted sailor on board, when 
called to take his night-watch aloft, glancing at the yards 
and tackling of the ship for the phantom. It was a long 
time, in the opinion of the crew, before the phantom left 
the ship." 

Cheever tells of another ghost, returning to warn the 

•Pacha of Many Tales. 

+ Blackwood's Magazine, 1860. 

t Grant.— Mvsteries of all Nations, 694. 

§ " Two Years Abaft the Mast." 

a " Sea and Sailor." 




men to repent of their sins, and the captain to desist from 
severe punishments. 

*The crew of the ship Pontiac, not many years since, 
averred that they saw the ghost of a man that had been 
stabbed by a Greek. On one man's laughing at the notion, 
he was mysteriously stabbed. The men thereupon deserted 
the ship, on arriving in port, but the Greek was afterward 
convicted of both murders. 

f Melville tells us of a man who was accidentally burned 
in his bunk, after having died there. The berth was sealed 
up, but the superstitious crew would not remain in the fore- 
castle at night, nor sing nor joke while there. 

An account of a haunted ship is given in the Nautical 
Magazine.| On the last voyage of the Lord Clive, a num- 
ber of Lascars had mutinied, and were summarily hanged 
at the yard arm. Her story became known, and it was diffi- 
cult to get a crew. Shortly after she sailed, during a night 
watch, the mate insisted that he heard groans in an empty 
cabin,, and rushed terrified on deck. The crew afterward 
left the cuddy, likewise reporting a ghost, that of a Malay. 
Various accidents occurred, and the spectre was often seen 
in the rigging. Finally, the master saw the ghost on the 
yard arm, laid in wait for it, and captured a Lascar, who 
was playing these ghostly tricks, in revenge for the punish- 
ment of his comrades. 

The spectre of a lady, drowned on the coast, is believed 
by fishermen to appear on the beach at Lyme, England. 
§A similar spectre is said to haunt the beach at St. Ives, 
Cornwall, during storms. It is called " the Lady and 
the Lantern." She and her child had been saved from 
wreck, but the child was swept away and drowned, and she 
is supposed to be hunting for its body. She is dressed in 
silks, and coins are always found where she has been seen. 

I Popular tradition asserts that the ghost of a young 
man lost at sea appeared to his mother in Cornwall, and 
that of an officer of the navy appeared to his wife. At 
Morra, in Cornwall, the Lady Sybilla sits on the rocks, 
looking seaward for wrecks. The apparition of a smug- 
gling crew, dripping wet, was also seen, portending the 
wreck that followed. A pilot at St. Ives received a ghostly 

' Grant.— Mvsteries, 584-5. 

+ White Jacket. 


§ Bottrell.— Traditions and Fireside Stories of ConiwaU. 

fl HunL—Romances and Drolls of the West of England. 


warning, in the vision of a man, his mouth filled with 
seaweed, and his shoes with sand. 

* In a Cornish legend, the spectre of a privateer captain 
goes off in a thunder-cloud in a mysterious ship. In the 
same story, the ghost of a shipwrecked sailor appears. In 
another tale a similar spectre appears, and carries off his 
waiting bride. The ghosts of shipwrecked mariners are 
seen, and their cries heard, from the waves, in a certain bay, 
on the Cornish coast. 

Scotch fishermen and sailors have many stories of these 
ghosts. The ghost of a murdered lady appears to her lover 
at sea, in a tale by Gregor,-|- coming in the shape of a bright 
light, assuming the human form as it draws nearer. She 
finally calls him, and he springs into her arms, and disap- 
pears, in a flash of fire. In another legend, an officer sees, 
in a vision, two boatmen bringing in the body of a third. 
Soon afterward, this actually occurred, the boat in which 
they were having been capsized. The spectre of a woman, 
who died on the scaffold, is said to have appeared to her 
sailor lover, who had promised to be faithful to her, living 
or dead. It came in a gale, accompanied by a storm-cloud, 
accompanied by a gigantic figure. The vessel was mean- 
while sorely stormbeaten, but was delivered, when these 
apparitions obtained possession of the sailor. On Solway 
Firth, the ghost of a murdered lady appears in a blaze of 

On a small island, near Windemere, Scotland, called 
Ledge's Holm, there is a quarry called "The Crier of 
Claife." An old legend says a ferryman was hailed on a 
dark night from the island, and went over. He came back, 
after a long absence, having seen some horrible sights, 
which he ever after refused to relate, and soon after he 
became a monk. Afterward the same cry was heard, and 
the monk went over, and succeeded in laying the ghost in 
the quarry, where it still is. 

There are many stories of Irish banshees, some of which 
are aquatic ghosts. The Banshee of O'Carrol appears on 
Lough Dearg, gliding over the surface. 

l In various Danish legends, the ghost of a Strand 
Varsler, or coast-guard, appears, walking his beat as when 
alive. It was formerly considered dangerous to pass along 

*"The White Witch."— Bottrell. 
t Folk-lore of Scotland. 
tThorpe.— N. Mythology, II, 186. 



unconsecrated beaches, believed to be haunted by the spec- 
tres of unburied corpses of drowned people, also called 
Strand-Varsler. Stories are told of encounters with them 
by a peasant, near Sambek, and by a woman, near Niverod. 


*A mediaeval East Prussian story is told of Father 
Anselm, a Lusenberg monk, who, obtaining strand rights 
on the coast, forbade the gathering of amber without the 
paj'ment of a heavy tax. It had always been free, but a 
decree was obtained that any one caught secretl)' gathering 
it, should be hanged to the nearest tree. In popular 

* Bechfitein. — Deutsches Mfirchenbuch. 


legend, his spirit cannot rest in its grave, but is often seen^ 
wandering on the beach, and crying, "Oh, my God! free 
amber! ". 

* In North German folk-lore, " Gongers " are ghosts of 
persons drowned at sea, who visit remote kindred, and 
announce their own death, always appearing at evening 
twilight, in the clothes in which they were drowned, and 
again in the night, leaving a track of water on the floor, 
and wet covers on the bed. In Schleswig, it is said they 
do not enter the house, but linger about to announce their 
sad errand, and always tell it to a relative in the third 

A young lad was forced to go to sea with his father 
against his will. He said to his mother, before he went, 
"As you sit on the shore by the lake, think of me." His 
ghost appeared to her there soon afterward. 

f An island, Hornum, near Silt, is traditionally peopled by 
the apparitions of murdered men, robbers, murderers, and 
ship wrecked sailors. 

i In Schmidt's stories, the ghost of a wronged maiden ap- 
pears in a ship at sea, on board of which the crew are per- 
ishing with thirst. It comes in a cloud, traversing the vessel 
from boom to mizzen, when it finally overwhelms ship and 

§ In one of Arnanson's tales, ghosts of dead men appear, 
to aid in moving a boat, in which is traveling a former bene- 
factor of these spirits. 

There are many such ghosts found in the legends of our 
own land. The West Indian superstitions have been re- 

II On the New England coast, they were also found, and 
Whittier says the Old Triton, — 

" Had heard the ghost on Haley's Isle complain, 
Speak him off-shore, and beg a passage back to Spain." 

** These ghosts are those of the crew of the Spanish ship 
Sagunto, lost here early in the last century, sixteen of whose 
graves are still to be seen there. 

A more celebrated ghost is that of the " Shrieking 

♦Thorpe.— N. Mythology, m, p. 10. 

+See also H. 0. Andersen, Fairy Tales, '" Anne Lisbeth." 

t Schmidt. — Seeman's Sagen und Schlffer Mfirchen. 

§ Icelandic Legends. 

I Garrison of Cape Ann. 

« Drake.— Legreuds and Folk-lore of New England. 


Woman," long thought to haunt the shores of Oakum Bay, 
near Marblehead. This was a Spanish woman, murdered 
here by pirates in the seventeenth century. Whittier thus 
sings of her, — 

*" 'Tis said that often when the moon 

Is struggling with the gloomy even, 
And over moon and star is drawn 

The curtain of a clouded heaven, 
Strange sounds swell up the narrow glen, 

As if that robber crew was there. 
The hellish laugh, the shouts of men — 

And woman's dying prayer. " 

f Drake says this spectre is still believed to haunt the 
spot, by many intelligent people, and a learned jurist stated 
that he had often seen it. 

I Roads says there are stories told in Marblehead of the 
appearance on the water of loved ones, who had died at 

§ Lights are often seen coming and going near old wrecks 
on Sable Island, and, with the leaping flames, ghosts of 
wicked people appear. One is especially renowned, that of 
the " Lady of Copeland," wrecked and murdered by pirates, 
from the Amelia transport. She has one finger missing on 
her hand. 

II A Block Island tradition declares that the ghosts of 
certain refugees, drowned in the surf during the revolution, 
are often seen, these " harbor boys " struggling to reach the 
shore, and sometimes making their cries heard. 

** Among Maine fishermen, there are legends of spectres. 
"There was particularly the story of the Hascall. She 
broke loose from her moorings during a gale on George's 
banks, and ran into and sank the Andrew Johnson and all 
on board. For years afterward, the spectres of the drowned 
men were reported to come on board the Hascall at mid- 
night, and go through the dumb show of fishing over the 
side, so that no one in Gloucester could be got to sail her, 
and she would not have brought six pence in the market." 

ff.There is a legend of a ghost of a former wreck, pirate, 

♦ Legends of New England. 
t Drake.— Legends o( JS'ew England, p. 212. 
t History of Marblehead. 
§ Secrets of Sable Island. Harper's Magazine. 
1 Livermore.— History of Block Island. 

*» Fish and Men in the Maine Islands. W. H. Bishop, Harper's Magazine 
September, 1880. 

+t Drake. — Legends of New England. 

bS&^i^ '-.:.- — =^ 





etc., at Ipswich. When storms come, the howling of the 
wind is Harry Main. The legend is embodied in a verse by 
A. Morgan: 

" He blasphemed God, so they put him down, 
With his iron shovel, at Ipswich Bar, 
They chained him there for a thousand years. 
As the sea rolls up, to shovel it back. 
£o when the sea cries, the good wives say, 
' Harry Main growls at his work to-day ? '" 

He is occasionally seen, hard at work on the bar. 

* Fishermen on the Isles of Shoals, said that ghosts 
guarded treasures buried by Kidd on Appledore Island, and 
their luminous forms were often seen. On another island, 
the ghost of the mistress of one of the freebooters faithfully 
guards the treasure. 

In Dana's Buccaneer, a spectral horse appears on the 
water, and the pirate is forced to mount him, see the spectre 
ship burn, and finally to ride him away. 

I Rockwell says there was a superstition among sailors 
in our navy, in 1842, that when a man had been hanged at 
the yard arm, a voice would be heard that night, returning 
the hail, from each yard-arm, one being the ghost of the 
person hanged. 

A certain island on the Japanese coast is traditionally 
haunted by the ghosts of Japanese slain in a naval battle. 
JGriffis says, " Even to-day the Chosen peasant fancies he 
sees the ghostly armies baling out the sea with bottomless 
dippers, condemned thus to cleanse the ocean of the slain of 
centuries ago." Mariners feared to anchor near, and thought 
the phosphorescent sea the forerunner of these ghosts. 

§ An old Chinese legend reports that the ghost of the 
captain of a man-of-war junk, who had been murdered, re- 
appeared, and directed how the ship was to be steered to 
avoid a nest of pirates. The ghost of a Canton man-of-war 
repeatedly visited his ship, promenading the deck, and 
drilling his men. 

We should not wonder at the belief in ghosts and spectres 
at sea, when we hear of the belief formerly existing, that 
when ghosts were laid, they were banished to the Red Sea. 
In one of Addison's plays, we read, " There must be a power 
of spirits in that sea." When sjach exiled ghosts did reap- 

• Drake.— Legends of New Eng:lan<i,'p. 346. 
+ Sketches of Foreign Travel. 

t The Mikado's Kingdom. 

t Deanys.— Folk-lore of China. 


pear, they were thought more audacious, appearing by day 
instead of by night. 

But these are not all the spectral shapes that come to the 
credulous mariner. As the mysterious abodes of the spirits 
of the deep and of the air, he had a ready fear of the shapes 
of mist, cloud, and fog. The Fata Mor-gana of Messina 
Straits is little less than the "Bahrel Sheitan " [Devil's Sea), 
the deceptive and often disastrous mirage of the Arabian 

So the Argonauts were encompassed by fog when re- 
lieved by Apollo. The spectre ship is often attended by a 
fog, cloudy spectres hovered about many a headland, many 
unusual occurrences, as narrated in these pages, are attended 
by a fog or mist, and are often easily accounted for by the 
unusual resonance given to sounds in fogs, and to the 
strange feelings often experienced when locked in from the 
outside world by a fog-bank. 

The Chinese call the mirage the " Sea Market," and evi- 
dently regard it as more substantial than fog, for we hear 
- of visits to palaces in the sea-mist. 

* Japanese legend asserts that the mirage is the breath of 
a clam, which Ires in the bottom of the sea. The mirage is 
called Shin-Kiro, — " The vision of the palace of the god of 
the bottom of the sea." 

f A mist over the river Cymal, in Wales, is traditionally 
the spirit of a traitress, who perished in the lake near by. 
She had conspired with pirates to rob her lord of his do- 
main, and was defeated by an enchanter. 

In Icelandic belief, the fog . is a king's daughter be- 

A certain lake in Sweden is said, when the sun is warm, 
to send up a mist like a human form. It is called spectre- 
water (Spokvatten). 

The occasional reflections of mountains, cities, or ships 
in mirage or fog-bank, the land-look of such banks them- 
selves, coupled with the superstition of the mediaeval mar- 
iner, doubtless gave rize to the many stories of m3'^sterious 
lands at various places and times, and these were aided by 
the belief in the existence of an earthly heaven or hell, gen- 
erally reached by crossing the water. 

The names j'^et existing in sailor-tongue of such mysteri- 
ous places as Cape Fly-away, No-man's land. Lubber land, 

» Greey.— The Wonderful CSty of ToMo. 
+Sykes.—British Goblins and Welsh Folk-lore. 



Dutchman's land, and Butter-land (German Smorland), are 
but faint reminiscences of many tales of wonderful lands 
in unexplored seas. 

These fables are as old as Homer's time. For .^olus, 
dispenser of the winds, lives in a floating isle. 

Delos, the sacred island, traditionally floated in the 
JEgean, and was anchored by Poseidon. 

(Merry suggests that jEolia, like the Symplegades, was 
a floating iceberg of the glacial period.) 

* Ovid tells us of a maiden, Penmele, who was turned 
into an island bearing that name, by Neptune, and there 
were similar Grecian traditions concerning other islands. 

Navigators in early times thus brought home tales of 
many fanciful lands, and especially chose islands as the seat 
of many of these stories, the influence of which extended to 
the times of Columbus. 

These tales were assisted in their growth by the fanciful 
descriptions of authors of the middle ages, and of the re- 
vival of letters. Scarcely one of them undertook to describe 
a sea-voyage, without creating numerous wonderful islands. 

These islands are encountered in the Arabian Nights. 
- On that seen by Sindbad, where King Mihrage lived, sounds 
of revelry were heard at night, f So El Kazwini reports 
that sailors say sounds of drum and tambourine were 
often heard from Bartail, a certain East Indian island, and 
say El Dezj^l, the Antichrist, lives there. Hole, in his com- 
ments, thinks these sounds made by waves in hollow rocks. 
He also says the island on which lived the old man of the 
sea, who so greviously oppressed Sindbad, was full of such 
beings, having no bones in their legs, and always ready to 
jump on the shoulders of an approaching mariner, and drag 
him down. 

The Island of Apes is also described by El Kazwini, and 
both he and El Wardee tell of another island, where there 
were cannibal men with dog's heads. 

King Bedr, when wrecked, finds an enchanted city. Lob, 
on an island. 

J Moses sent Al Sameri, the maker of the golden calf, to 
an island in the Red sea, and there his descendants reign, 
plague-stricken. If a ship comes to the island, they run to 
the beach, and cry, " Touch me not." 

* Metamorphoses. Vii i . 
+ Marvels of Creation. 

t Well.— Legrends of the Koran. 


Ariosto places the gardens of Armida in a wonderful 
island in the Atlantic, and Fata Alcina carries Astolfo to 
another enchanted island. *Angelina was exposed to be 
devoured by the Ore, on another island, to the west of Ire- 
land, where that monster had already destroyed the inhab- 
itants, descendants of Proteus. 

No extended allusion to the various imaginary islands 
of Swift and Rabelais are necessary. fThe fleet of the 
bottle visit in turn Nowhere island. Triangle island. Lip- 
service island. Desolation island. Monks' island. Sly land. 
Favorable Wind island, and others, and cross a frozen sea, 
where the noise of a conflict that had occurred twelve 
months previous was just beginning to be heard. 

In the "Speculum Regale," we are told of an island that 
sometimes approached the Danish coast, on which grew 
herbs that could cure all ills. But no more than one 
person could land on it at a time, when it would disappear 
for seven years, and, on bringing back its burden, it sank, 
and another island arose in its place, similar to it. Giraldus 
tells us of an island that appeared and then vanished, but 
finally became fixed, on some one landing on it. JA French 
author, Pichot, says there were legends among northern 
sailors of floating islands, covered with grass, trees, etc., 
which sank in the sea at intervals. They regard them 
as the abode of malicious spirits, who cause them to rise 
and float about, so as to embarrass navigators. This 
statement is confirmed by Torfoeus. Gummers' Ore, just 
in sight of Stockholm, was one of these islands, and it is 
figured in the charts of Baroeus, a geographer. Baron 
Grippenheim relates that he long sought it in vain, but 
finally saw it by chance, as he raised his head when fishing, 
it appearing as three points of land. The fishermen in- 
formed him what it was, and said that its appearance prog- 
nosticated storms and plenty of fish, and added that it was 
but a reef, inhabited by sea-trolls, or, perhaps, shapes as- 
sumed by the trolls. 

A floating island appears on Lake Derwentwater, in 
England. § " Some call it the devil's barge, and assert that- 
it only appears in years of calamity; from this premise 
deducing the fact that England is about to be visited by 
the cholera. This prophecy is strengthened by the fact 

• Hoole.— Ariosto. XI— 240. 

t " Pantagruel." 

tLandrin.— Les Monstres Marios, 30. 

8 London World, January. 1885. 


that it appeared in the last great cholera year. It matters 
not that it has also appeared since. Others — among them 
the oldest inhabitants — state that it presages three months' 
continual frost." 

* Marco Polo tells us of islands inhabited by men alone, 
and of others inhabited by women alone. Colonel Yule 
says many ancient traditions of such islands were told. 
Mendoza heard of such in Japan, where there is still a 
legendary woman's, island; and Columbus heard the same 
legend, of Martinique. ' 

\ Near Formosa lies Mauriga Sima, said, in Japanese 
lore, to have been sunk for the crimes of its inhabitants, 
and yet peopled by their souls. Kaempfer says the vessels 
and urns which the fishermen have brought from it are 
sold at an enormous price in China and Japan. J So Moore 

"And urns of porcelain from that isle. 
Sunk underneath the Indian flood, 
Whence, oft the lucky diver brings 
Vases to grace the halls of kings." 

The Chinese have similar traditions of islands, near 
Formosa, called San-Chen-SSn (Isles of the Genii). §An 
expedition is said to have sailed to them, in 219 B. C, but 
was mysteriously driven back by adverse winds, on sighting 

Cocaigne, or Cookery island, was the subject of many 
legends and ballads. It is a gourmand's paradise, where 
abound stores of wine, game, and fish. 

I " Far in sea, by West Spain, 
Is a land yhote Cockayne." 

One authority calls it Lubber-land. 

Schmidt, in his sailor legends, tells of a wonderful 
island, inhabited by fairies. 

The Galapagos islands were formerly said to be en- 
chanted, probably, as Melville suggests, because of the 
currents and eddies found near there. 

An old ballad. "The Enchanted Isle," reads thus: 

» Tules' Marco Polo, VoL II. 

+ Kaempfer. — Japan. 

tLalla Rookh. 

I Conway.— Demonology and Devfl-lore, 1, 166. 

I EUli.— Early English Poetry. 


" From that dale forth, the isle has beene 
By wandering sailors never scene; 
Some say, 'tis buryed deepe 
Beneath the sea, which breakes and roares 
Above its savage rocky shores. 
Nor e'er is inown to sleepe." 

Strange tales were long told of the Bermudas. *As 
Dekker says: 

" Bermudas, called the Hand of Divels, by reason of the 
quantity of swine heard from thence to the sea." 

We also read in the "Crudities" (1611). 

" Of the Bermudas, the example such. 
Where not a ship until this time darst touch, 
Kept, as suppos'd by hel's infernal dogs; 
Our fleet found there most honest courteous hogs." 

fAn account of these islands byjourdan, in t6io, tells us: 
" For the Islands of the Bermudas, otherwise called the Isle 
of Divels, every man knoweth that hath heard or reaH of them, 
were never inhabited by any Christians, but were esteemed 
and reputed a most prodigious and inchanted place, afford- 
ing nothing but gusts, storms and foul weather; which made 
every mariner and navigator to avoid them as Scylla and 
Charybdis, or as they would shun the devil himself." The 
Colony of Virginia supplemented this account thus: " These 
islands of the Bermudas have ever been accounted an in- 
chanted place, and a desert in)iabitatio7i for devils; but all the 
fairies of the rock were but flocks of birds, and all the devils 
that haunted the woods were but herds of swine." In the 
addition to Stowes' Annuals, by Howes, we further read: 
"Sir George Somers espied land, which they judged it 
should be the dreadful coast of the Bermudas, which island 
men of all nations said and supposed to be enchanted and 
inhabited with wittches and devils, which grew by reason of 
accustomed monstrous thunder-storms and tempests near to 
these islands." Marryat says there was a sailor tradition 
that the crust of these islands was so thin, that there was 
constant danger of breaking through. 

I "Who did not think till within these foure years, but 
that these islands had been rather a habitation for Divells, 
than fit for man to dwell in.' 

•Strange Horse-Kace (1600). 

+ A Discovery of the Bermudas, otherwise called the " Isle of Divels." 

t A Plain Description of the Bermudas (1613j. 


*"And whereas it is reported that this land of the Ber- 
mudas, with the islands about, are inchanted, and kept with 
evil and wiched spirits — it is a most idle and false report." 

f Josselyn says: "June, the first day in the afternoon, very 
thick foggie weather, we sailed by an inchanted island, saw 
a great deal of filth and rubbish floating bj' the ship." 

None of the tales told of ghostl)' shapes or shadowy 
lands in the ocean world have found so many credulous 
believers as those of the ghostly lights,, that burn about the 
tops of the ship's spars in the heav)' atmosphere preceding 
a storm, or in the agitated air near its close. Under various 
names, and connected with numerous legends, this appear- 
ance has been the joy or terror of mariners for centuries. 
It bears the same relation to the Will-o'-the-Wisp on shore 
that the Phantom-Ship bears to the Wandering Jew. 

I Horace says of them: — 

*' Soon as their happy stars appear, 
Hush'd is the storm, the waves subside. 
The clouds disperse, the skies are clear. 
And without a murmur, sleeps th' obedient tide." 

Its earliest appearance is in the first celebrated voyage of 
the Argonauts. Here, during a storm, it appeared, in an- 
swer to the prayers of Orpheus, about the heads of Castor 
and Pollux, as a reassuring sign. Later, its appearance 
became common. §Xenophanes says they are small clouds, 
burning bj' their peculiar motion. Metrodorus thinks that 
they are luminous emanations from the eyes of spirits. Plu- 
tarch, quoting these, also thinks them spirits. 

II Pliny saj-s, "I have seen, during the night-watches of 
the soldiers, a luminous appearance, like a star, attached to 
the javelins on the ramparts. They also settle on the yard- 
arms and other parts of ships while sailing, producing a 
kind of vocal sound, like that of birds flitting about. When 
they occur singly, they are mischievous, so as even to sink 
the vessel, and if they strike on the lower part of the hull, 
setting them on fire. When there are two of them, the}' are 
considered auspicious, and are thought to predict a prosper- 
ous voyage, and it is said they drive away the dreadful and 
terrific meteor named Helena. On this account their efficacy 

•News from the Bermudas (1617). 

+ Voyage to New England (1885). 

tCJarmina, 1-12-25. 

e Plutarch Morals. Goodwin, Chapter xvill. 

•Natural History, Lib. II, Chapter xxxrll. 


is ascribed to Castor and Pollux, and they are invoked as 

Euripides speaks of the appearance of these lights, in 
" Helena," and Ovid also alludes to them. 

* Maximus, of Tyre, says, " I have seen on a ship, the 
Dioscuri, brilliant stars who reconduct into the right path 
the ship driven by tempests." Euripides and the Scholiast 
on Statius bear testimony similar to that given by Pliny. 
Lucian tells of a ship warned ofi a shoal by one of the twins. 
Hesychius and many of the poets speak of their appearance 
to mariners. Porphyrion, in a note to Horace, says, " It is on 
the contrary asserted now among sailors, that the stars of 
Castor and Pollux are generally a menace to the ship." 

f Solin alludes to a vile incantation against the light, not 
of a nature to be here described, and it is further confirmed 
by a passage in JPliny, indicating a method for avoiding all 
atmospheric dangers. 

§Castor and Pollux were reputed sons of Zeus, or, some 
say, of Tyndareus, by Leda, and assisted in the Argonautic 
voyage. ||At their death they were made stars in the con- 
stellation Gemini, and are invoked by mariners, as in Hon, 
Od. Ill, Bk. I. 

" Sic Fratres Helenae, lucida sidera! " 

For Castor and Pollux were brothers of Helen, whose dire 
influence in the Greek fortunes gave her name to the single 
unpropitious flame. 

** Dr. Anthon thinks the origin of these names is realistic. 
Leda means darkness^ Tyndareus, light-giving. So their off- 
spring are Helene, or Selene, the moon (always evil in its 
influence), or brighttuss. Castor, the adorner, and Pollux 
(Polleuces) lightful. Thus they are appropriate names, 
whether for these lights at sea, or for the stars that g^ide 
the mariner. As the Cabiri, or Dioscuri, the twins became 
early maritime deities. Another authority thinks Helena is 
elene, light, or elenas, shipwreck. 

In the middle ages, mariners especially noted this appa- 
rition with superstitious joys or fears. 

f f El Masudi tells us: " Those who are to be saved f re- 

* " Melusine," Augiist 5, 1884. 

+ Polyhistor, Ch. I, p. 17 and 18— Mommsens Ed. 

X Hist. Nat. XJSVIII, 23, q. by H. Gaidoz, Melusine, September 1, 1884. 

S Smith.— Classical Dictionary. 

I Diodonis Siculus. 

"flassical Dictionary. 

+t Golden Meadows, 954 A. D., Chapter xvl. 


quently observe something like a luminous bird at the top 
of the mast. This appearance on the top of the mast is of 
such brightness that the eye cannot behold it, nor can they 
make out what it is. The moment it appears, the sea 
becomes quiet, the gale lulls, and the waves subside. Then 
the brightness vanishes, and no one can perceive how it 
comes, or how it disappears. It is the sign of safety, and 
the assurance that they have escaped." 

* When the Earl of Salisbury, in 1226, was visited by the 
Virgin, as alluded to above, the light appeared, guarded by 
her, at the summit of the mast, at the moment of greatest 

Gregorius (1352) records the appearance of these lights, 
and the usual prognostications from them. 

f M. Jal gives the following quotation from an old work: 
J"A vow being made, in invoking Holy Pope Urban, sud- 
denly appeared to them the light of Saint Elemi; and, 
seeing this sign, they were exceedingly content." 

M. Jal also gives an extract from a Spanish MS. in the 
Paris Naval library, called, " Relacion del Viajem del 
Flote." " The next day we had a great tempest, and some 
sailors assured us that they saw Santo Telmo in the tops 
with a light." 

§ The same phenomena are recorded by a later writer, 
who calls the vision St. Helm. 

Italian mariners of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries 
regarded the light as a luminous emanation from the body 
of Christ. 

II In the account of the second voyage of Columbus, we 
find this passage: "On Saturday, at night, the body of St. 
Elmo was seen, with seven lighted candles in the round 
top, and there followed mighty rain and frightful thunder. 
I mean the lights were seen which the seamen affirm to be 
the body of St. Elmo, and they sang litanies and praters to 
him, looking upon it as most certain that in these storms, 
when he appears, there can be no danger. Whatever this 
is, I leave to others, for, if we may believe Plinj', when such 
lights appeared in those times to Roman sailors in a storm, 
they said they were Castor and Pollux." 

* Jones. — Credulities, p. M. 

+ Glossaire Nautique, Art. St. Elmo. 
t History of the Miracles of Urban V. (1362-70). 
§ Voyage du Sei^eur du Cauinont (1418). 
1 Ilistoria del Almirante. 


*Ariosto says, — 

" When sudden breaking on their raptur'd sight 
Appear'd the splendor of St. Elmo's light. 
Low settling on the prow, with ray serene 
It shone, for masts and sails no more were seen; 
The crew, elated, saw the dancing gleam. 
Each on his kriees ador'd the fav'ring beam, 
And begg'd, with trembling voice and watery eyes, 
A truce from threatening waves and raging skies; 
The storm (till then relentless) ceased to roar. " 

f Erasmus says: "A certain ball of. fire began to stand by 
the mast, which is the worst sign in the world to sailors, if 
it be single, but a very good one, if it be double. The 
ancients believed it to be Castor and Pollux. By and by 
the fiery ball glides down the ropes, and it rolls over and 
over, close to the pilot. It stopped a little there, then 
rolled itself all around the sides ot the ship, afterward 
slipping through the hatches, it vanished away." 

J We have alluded above to the appearance of Ariel, in 
" The Tempest," on board the king's ship. He comes as 
the dread spectre light. 

He says, — 

*' I boarded the king's ship; now on the beak. 
Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin, 
I flamed amazement; sometimes I'd divide 
And burn in many places: on the topmast. 
The yards, and bowsprit, would I flame distinctly. 
Then meet, and join," etc. 

' ' Not a soul 
But felt a fever of the mad, and played 
Some trick of desperation. All, but mariners. 
Plunged in the foaming brine, and quit the vessel. 
Then all afire with me." 

§ Douce says Shakspeare probably consulted Stephen 
Batman's " Golden Books of the Leaden Goddes," where 
it is thus written, — 

" Castor and Pollux were figured like two lamps, or 
cresset lights, one on the toppe of a maste, the other on the 
stemme or foreshippe," and he further says that if the 
light ascends from the prow, it is a good sign; if it descends 
from the masthead, a bad one. 

•Orlando Furioso (1516), Hoole's Trans. 
fCtolloquy of the Shipwreck" (1522). 
$ Act I, scene 2. 
i Ulustrations o( Shalrapeare (1839), p. 3. 


* Psellus names the first class of demons, fiery devils. 
They displayed their power, he says, in blazing stars, in 
fire-drakes, in mock-suns and moons, and in the Corpo Santo. 

In Pigafetta's history of the voyage of Magellan, we find 
this account: 

"In stormy weather we frequently saw what is called the 
Corpo Santo, or St. Elme " (another account has it St. An- 
selmo). " On one very dark night it appeared to us like a 
brilliant flambeau, on the summit of the mainmast, and 
thus remained for a space of two hours, which was a matter 
of great consolation to us during the tempest. At the 
instant of its. disappearing, it diffused such a resplendent 
blaze of light as almost blinded us, but the wind ceased 
immediately." In another place he says, " In this place we 
endured a great storm, and thought we should have been 
lost, but the. three holy bodies, that is to say, St. Anselmo, 
St. Ursula, and St. Clare appeared to us, and immediately 
the storm ceased." 

Afoot-note in Pinker lOh's " Voyages " says the English 
sailors call the light Davy Jones, but he does not state his 
authority, nor does f Goodrich, who calls it the same. 

J Camoens, in the " Lusiad," records the appearance of the 
light. It is in 1572, and Da Gama speaks, — 

' ' That living fire, by seamen held divine. 
Of Heaven's own care in storms the holy sign, 
Which midst the horrors of the tempest plays. 
And on the blast's dark wings would gayly blaze; 
These eyes distinct have seen that living fire 
Glide through the storm, and 'round my sails aspire." 

§ Linschoten also tells us, " The same night we saw 
upon the main yard, and in many other places, a certain 
sign, which the Portuguese call Corpo Santo, or the holy 
body of the brother Peter Gonsalves, but the Spanish call 
it San Elmo, and the Greeks (as ancient writers rehearse, and 
Ovid among the rest), Helle and Phryxus. Whensoever 
that signe showeth you the mast, or main yard, or in any 
other place, it is commonly thought that it is a sign of 
better weather. When they first perceive it, the Master or 
Chief Boatswain whistleth, and commandeth every man to 
salute it with ' Salve Corpo Santo,' and a miseracordia, with 

• Collin de PlAncy. — Dictionnaire Infemaie. 
+ Man TIpon the Sea. 213. 

tMickle's Translation, Bk. V, ver. 159. 

§ Relation of a voyage from Goa to Enkhulzen (1588). 

-t ■-., 

. f J . ■!■ ■ 

• ■■ '1 V-.. ;i ■?.'! '-v 

■t; ' 
.* • 

': I...-',- 

t ." . 

.l;>Tj,», . ^m 

JUGELLAN's ship and the ST. ELMO LIGHTS. 



a very great cry and exclamation. This constellation, as 
astronomers do write, is engendered of great moisture and 
vapors, and showeth like a candle that burneth dimly and 
skippeth from one place to another, never lying still. We 
saw five of them together, all like the light of a candle, 
which made me wonder, and I should hardly have believed 
it, but that I saw it, and looked very earnestly at it. . . . 
These five lights the Portuguese call ' Coroa de Nostra Sen- 
hora,' that is, ' our lady's crown,' and have great hope there- 
in when they see it." 

Sir Humphrey Gilbert tells us, "We had also upon oui 
main-yard an apparition of a little fier by night, which sea- 
men call Castor and Pollux." 

In Lord Bacon's "Apothegms," Gonsalvo says to Diego 
de Mendoza, " It is Saint Ermyn, who never appears but 
after a storm." 

* Hakluyt in his Voyages (1598) saw the light. He says, 
" I do remember that in the great and boisterous storm of 
this foul weather, in the night there came upon the toppe 
of our maine-yard and maine-mast a certaine little light, 
much like unto the light of a little candle, which the Span- 
iards call the Suerpo Santo. This light continued aboord 
our ship about three hours, flying from maste to maste, and 
from top to top; and sometimes it would be in two or three 
places at once." 

f An old writer says, — 

"As when a wave-bniised bark, long tost by the winds in a tempest, 
Strains on a forraine coast, in danger still to be swallow'd, 
After a world of feares, with a winter of horrible objects, 
The shipman's solace, fair Leda's twinnes, at an instant, 
Signes of a calm are seen, and seen, are shrilly saluted. " 

I De Loier also says, " They shall see the fires which say- 
lors call St. Hermes, fly uppon their shippe, and alight upon 
the toppe of maste." 

In that diverting work, Burton's "Anatomy of Melan- 
choly (1624), we read, "Fiery spirits and devils are seen, as 
commonly noted, by blazing stars, fire-drakes, or ignes-fatni, 
which lead men often in flu-men aut pracipitu; likewise they 
counterfeit sun and moon, stars oftentimes, and sit on ship's 
masts. In navigiorum summitantibus visuntur^ and are called 

» Vol. m, p. 430. 

-t Greene in C!onceit (1598). 

% Treatise of Spectres aeOo). 

i " They are seen at the top of shlpa." 


Dioscuri, as Eusebius informs us, in which they never ap- 
pear, saith Cardan, but they signify some mischief, or ill to 
come unto men, though some will have them to portend 
good, and victory to that side they come towards in sea- 
fights. St. Elme's fire they commonlycall them, and they 
do likewise appear after a sea-storm. * Radzovillius, the 
Polonian duke, calls this apparition Santo Germani Sidus 
(Holy German Star), and saith, moreover, that he saw the 
same often in a storm as he in his sailing, 1582, came from 
Alexander to Rhodes. Our stories are full of such appari- 
tions in all times." 

In a letter from a priest in Peru to his superior, written 
in 1639,1 we find a curious account of this light. I trans- 
late, " But we passed through it (the storm) happily, since 
at its beginning, which was about 11 or 12 P.M., the San- 
telmo (sic) appeared to us at the main-topmast head, in the 
shape of three distinct lights, mild and beneficent to the 
sight, the form in which the Saint appears on like occasions 
to afflicted mariners. We all bade it thrice good speed, 
none in the ship omitting it, and then we knew that it 
understood our actions, and were not left in ignorance of 
the protection and special assistance that it afforded us, as 
it gave us an indication of this, the Saint passing from the 
main-topmast head to the fore-topmast head, and in the 
same form, and then we again bade it good speed three 
times, and the Saint, as if to show us that it afforded us a 
like protection and assurance, appeared the third time at 
the mizzen-topmast head, and there shone in the threefold 
form of three burning lights, which made a marked impres- 
sion on all, and all at once wished good speed three times 
again, and saw it no more, but gave ourselves the greatest 
assurance and confidence in making a good voyage." 

X Bartolomeo Crescentio records the light, and says it 
was called Saint Telme, or Saint Helm, because of its reflec- 
tion in the helmets, or helms, of the soldiers. 

Fournier, in his " Hydrographie " (1643), relates many 
curious stories of the light. He says it was named after a 
saint, familiarly known as Saint Telme, but who was San 
Pedro Gonzales de Tuy, in Gallicia, who had been a mari- 
ner, then was canonized, and became a patron saint of sail- 
ors.§ Gallician sailors called the light San Pedro Gonzales. 

* Hierosolymitaiia Perigrinatio (16011, p. 280. 
tDuro. — Disquisitiohes Nauticas (1876). 
tNautica Mediterrannea (1607). 
(Acta Sanctorum, April 11, and June 1. 


Varenius, a Dutch writer, in 1650, says of these lights, 
" They usuallywander with an uncertain motion from place 
to place, sometimes appearing to cleave close to the sails 
and masts; but they frequently leap up and down with in- 
termission, affording an obscure flame like that of a candle 
burning faintly. They are produced by some sulphurous 
and bituminous matter, which, being beat down by the mo- 
tion" of the air, above, and gathering together is kindled by 
the agitation of the air, as butter is gathered together by 
the agitation of the cream; and from this appearance we 
infer that storms come from sulphurous spirits that rarefy 
the air and fuel into motion." 

*A work written in 1652 calls it "St. Ermyn, that never 
appears but after a storm." 

Hazlitt, quoting an unpublished manuscript of the seven- 
teenth century, says it was called Castor and Pollux, and 
Fermie's fire. 

f Dampier encountered them: "After four o'clock, the 
thunder and the rain abated, and then we saw a Corpus 
Sant at our main-topmast head, on the very top of the truck 
of the spindle. This sight rejoiced our men exceedingly, 
for the height of the storm is commonly over when the 
Corpus Sant is seen aloft, but when they are seen 13'ing on 
the deck, it is generally accounted a bad sign." " A Corpus 
Sant is a certain small glittering light; when it appears as 
this did, on the very top of a mainmast or at a yard-arm, it 
is like a star, but v^'hen it appears on the deck, it resembles 
a great glow-worm. The Spaniards have another name for 
it, and I have been told that when they see them, they pres- 
ently go to prayers, and bless themselves for the happy 
light. I have heard some ignorant seamen discoursing how 
they have seen them creep, or as they say, travel about in 
the scuppers, telling many dismal stories that hap'ned at 
such times, but I never did see one stir out of the place 
where it first was fix'd, except upon Deck, where every sea 
washeth it about. Neither did I ever see any but we had 
rain as well as wind, and therefore I believe it to be some 

JJosselyn records these meteors: "About eight of the 
clock at night, a flame settled upon the main mast; it was 
about the bigness of a great candle, and is called by seamen 

* Herl)ert's Remains.— Brand, TIT, p. 402. 
+ Voyages (1637). 
t Voyages. 


St. Elmo's fire; it comes before a storm, and is commonly 
thought to be a spirit; if two appear, they prognosticate 

Heyrick, in "The Submarine Voyage" (1691), says, — 

"For lo! a sudden storm did rend the air. 
The sullen heavens curling from its brow, 
Did dire presaging omens show. 
Ill-boding Helena alone was there." 

In another place, Heyrick calls it Corposant, and so we 
find it named in John Coad's " Memorandum " (1690), and 
in Fryer's " Travels," of about the same period. * Fryer 
says, "In a storm of rain and hail, with a high and bleak 
wind, appeared the sailors' deities. Castor and Pollux, or the 
same it may be, gave light to those fables, they boding fair 
weather to seamen, though never seen but in storms, look- 
ing like a candle in a dark lantern, of which there were 
divers here and there, above the sails and shrouds, being the 
ignis fatui of the watery elements; by the Portuguese chris- 
tened Querpos Santos, the bodies of saints, which by them 
are esteemed ominous." 

Coad tells us: "God was pleased to give us a sign of the 
storm approaching, by a corposant on the top of the main 

f The writer of "Forbin's Memoirs" also relates that 
some thirty were seen in the Mediterranean. The French 
mariners thought that so long as they remained aloft, they 
were beneficent spirits, but if they descended, a gale would 
appear, and the wind would blow in proportion to their 

The St. Elmo appeared in answer to the prayers of some 
sailors in 1700, who called on Notre Dame de Deliverance, 
whose shrine is near Caen. 

A belief existed in the Isle of Man, about the same period, 
that lights over water presaged drowning, and rested over 
drowned bodies also. Similar beliefs are recorded of the 
river Dee, according to Aubrey. 

Dr. Caldecott sa}'s that when a Christian is drowned in 
that river, lights hover over the water to point out the loca- 
tion of the body, and hence it is called the Holy Dee. 

A curious account of the meteor is contained in a work 

•Jones.— Credulities, p. 76. 
t Jones. — Credulities, p. 76. 


quoted by Brand.* It calls them " fiery impressions that 
appear usually at sea, called by mariners Castor and Pollux; 
when thin, clammy vapors, arising from the salt water and 
ugly slime, hover over the sea, they, by the motions in the 
winds and hot blasts, are often fired; these impressions will 
oftentimes cleave to the masts and ropes of ships, by reason 
of their clamminess and glutinous substance, and the mar- 
iner by experience find that when but one flame appears, it 
is the forerunner of a storm, but when two are seen near 
together, they betoken faire weather and good lucke in a 
voyage. The natural cause why these may foretell fair or 
foul weather is, that one flame alone may forewarn a tem- 
pest, forasmuch as the matter, being joyn'd and not dis- 
solv'd, so it is like that the matter of the tempest, which 
never wasteth, as wind and clouds, is still together, and not 
dissipate, so it is likely a storm is engendering; but two 
flames appearing together denote that the exhalation is 
divided, which is very thick, and so the thick matter of the 
tempest is dissolv'd or scattered abroad, by the same cause, 
but the flame is divided, therefore no violent storm can 
ensue, but rather a calm is promised." 

Cotgrave, in his dictionary, defines Feu d' Helene, Feu d' 
Hermes, St. Helen or St. Hermes' fire as a meteor that often 
appears at sea. 

" Furole, a little blaze of fire appearing hj night on the 
tops of soldier's lances, or at sea on the sayle-yards, where 
it whistles and leapes in a moment from one place to 
another. Some mariners call it St. Hermes' fire, if it come 
double, 'tis held as a signe of goode lucke, if single, other- 
wise. If five of them are seen together, thej- are called by 
the Portuguese Cora de Nostra Senhora, and are looked 
upon as a sure sign that the storm is almost over." 

Aubin, in his Dictionary (1702), says: "The sailors draw 
presages from its appearance; for, if this light appear on 
the mast, yard, or rigging, they conclude that, the air being 
agitated by no wind which can dissipate these lights, there 
would ensue a profound calm; but, if the fires fl}' about, it 
is, according to them, a sign of bad weather." He calls 
them Feu St. Elme, Vree Vuuren (free fires), or Castor en 

f Becchi, writing of naval affairs in 1705, calls the lights 

* Vol. Ill, p. 401.— Wonderful History of all the Storms, Hurricanes, Earth- 
quakes, etc. (1700). 
i De re Navali. 


St. Elmo, and thinks they may be caused by phosphorescent 
marine insects scooped up into the air. 

He says: "Wisliing to invoke this- light, and not know- 
ing any name for it, they called it saint." He also says: 
"The Gallicians call this same light San Pietro Gonzales de 
Tui (Tui is a city of Gallicia, near Baiona), who was at first 
a sailor, and then, dying as a monk, so they called him a 

A writer in the "British Apollo" (1710), says: "When 
this light appears, it is a sign that the tempest is accom- 
panied by a sulphurous spirit, rarefying and moving the 

Thos. Chalky, in a journal of a voyage from Barbadoes 
to Philadelphia, says: "In this storm, December, 1731, we 
saw divers lights, which the sailors call corpusants. One 
of them was exceeding bright, about half an hour, on our 
main-topmast head, plain to the view of all the ship's com- 
pany, divers of whom said they never saw the like, and I 
think I never heard of or saw the like before." 

*Dr. Shaw tells us: "In the like disposition of the 
weather (thick and hazy), I have observed those luminous 
bodies, which at sea skim about the masts and yards of 
ships, and are called corpusance by the mariners — a cor- 
ruption of Cuerpo Santo, as this meteor is called by the 

A work, "A Wonderful Test of all Stones" (1760), has it: 
" They are seen rising in thin vapors from the surface of the 
waters, and then changing to the vessel's spars. One pre- 
sages a storm, and two, fair weather." The author gives a 
whimsical explanation of their origin. 

In a work, " Hostes Furioso," written about the same 
time, these lights are alluded to, and Ariosto's lines, above- 
quoted, are repeated. 

Falconer, in the "Shipwreck" (1760), thus sings, — 

" High on the mast, with pale and lurid rays. 
Amid the gloom, portentous meteors blaze." 

fAn Italian brochure, published about 1768, gives an 
account of them, and relates the usual omens as to their 

Nineteenth centurj' science has not thoroughly dispelled 
the mariner's belief in the supernatural character of these 

* Travels in the Levant a'i38t 
+Bn:-<i,m, 398. 



n'eird lights. For, as is said in Scott's " Rokeby," numer- 
ous stories are still 

" Told of Eric's cap and St. Elmo's light." 

* German sailors say it is the spirit of a defunct comrade. 
When it mounts up, it is a good omen, and the contrary is 
shown by its descent. It is fatal to any one, when it shines 
on his head. 

f In a modern French romance, the lights called by a 
sailor St. Elme, plays at the yard-arms, and, it is declared, 
would accompany the mariner to the yards, and aid him in 
his labors. It was said to be the soul of a shipwrecked 
sailor, which comes to warn of thunder-strokes and light- 
ning. It was a profanation to touch it, but it disappeared 
when the sign of the cross was made. 

J Other sailors say it is a soul fn purgatory. J|If the 
lights are double, it is a good sign, and they are called St. 
Elme and St. Nicholas. If they are single, it is a bad sign. 
A third light is called St. Anne. 

§In Brittany, it is called the wandering candle (goula- 
ouenn red), and is a menace. It is sometimes a lost soul, 
for whom prayers are asked. Others say it is an evil spirit. 

" St. Elmo's fire upon the deep. 
Death calls loudly there." 

II It is called Telonia, in modern Greece — a word meaning, 
primarily, a demon taxgatherer, from an old Christian 
superstition that demons hindered souls, in their heaven- 
ward journey, to gather toll. Hence, this light is a bad 
omen. It breaks masts, destroys ships and crew; and, 
hence, prayer and incense are used against it. Incantations 
from the Clavicle of Solomon are said, a loud noise is made, 
and guns fired. If a pig is on board, its tail Is pulled, as its 
diabolical cries will expel the demon. 

** " The Telonia is a species of electricity, appearing dur- 
ing storms at the mastheads which the Greek sailors per- 
sonify as birds of evil omen, which settle on the masts with 
a view to destroy the ship and sailors." 

♦Werner. — Erinnerung und BilUcr, in Melusine, February, 1885. 

+ E. Corbi&re.— Le Ncgrier. 

fl. De la Landelle.— Dernier Quarts de Nnit^ 

gL. F. Sauve, in Melusine, September, 1884, 

IN. G. Politis, in Melusine, August, 1884. 

** J. X Bent.— McMillan's Magazine, March, 1885. 


*A traveler in a Spanish ship, in 1808, says: "When 
retiring to rest, a sudden cry of 'St. Elmo,' and 'St. Anne,' 
was heard from those aloft, and fore and aft the deck. I 
found the topsail yards deserted, the sails loose, and beating 
in the inconstant wind; the awe-struck mariners, bare- 
headed, on their knees, with hands uplifted, in voice and 
attitude of prayer to St. Elmo and St. Anne." 

f Cheever says: "A corpusant is a mass of phosphorescent 
jelly, that clings to the rigging and mounts the mast." 

I Dana tells us: "Upon the maintop-gallant mast was a 
ball of light, which the sailors name a corpusant (Corpus 
sancti). They were all watching it, for sailors have a 
notion that if the corpusant rises in the rigging, it is a sign 
of fair weather, but if it come lower down, there will surely 
be a storm. It is held a fatal sign to have the pale light 
thrown in one's face. It passed to the foretop-gallant, and 
then to the flying jib-boom end." 

§ Douce says these lights lead men to suicide. He says 
they were called Saint Helen, Saint Elm, St. Herme, St. 
Clare, St. Peter, and St. Nicholas. 

II Melville says these lights were called corpusants. The 
mate feared them, and the men all avoided oaths while 
they were burning. 

**Macaulay's lines embody ancient beliefs: 

" Safe comes the ship to haven 

Through billows and through gales, 
If once the great twin brethren 
Sit shining on the sails." 

If We are tojd by Thorns: "That the ignis fatuus is the 
spirit of some woman, who is destined to run en furolle, to 
expiate her intrigues with a minister of the church, and it 
is designated from that circumstance. La Fourlore, or La 

Davis, in the " American Nimrod," says that the whalers 
call the light Ampizant, and have a tradition that it is the 
spirit of some sailor that has died on board. So the Will- 
o'-the-Wisp is said to be the spirit of evil-doers, of unbap- 
tized children, etc. 

* Jones. — Credulities, p. 76. 
+ Sea and Shore (1827). 
J Two Years Before the Mast, Ch. 39. 
§ Illustrations of Shakspeare, p. 3. 
I Moby Dick. 

*♦ Battle of Lake Eegillus. 
- ttThree Notelete to Shakspeare. 


* Longfellow's lines, quoted here, are repeated in Swain- 
son's " Weather-Lore, "as a weather prophecy: 

" Last night I saw St. Elmo's stars. 

With their glimmering lanterns all at play, 
On the top of the masts, and the tips of the spars, 
And I knew we should have foul weather to-day.'' 

f An old channel fisherman said to Buckland, " It never 
does any body any harm, and it always comes when squally 
weather is about." 

In the account given of the destruction of the Gloucester, 
in early colonial times, a corposant is related to have ap- 
peared, standing over the house of each widowed wife. In 
the " Salem Spectre-Ship," too, — 

"The night grew thick, but a phantom light. 
Around her path was shed." 

Connected in legend with these spectral lights, we also 
find other luminous appearances. All apparitions at sea, 
material or ethereal, are usually represented as being at- 
tended by lights, even if fog or cloud is at the same time 
seen. Some of these have been alluded to. JGregor tells a 
tale of a sailor, who murdered his lady-love. One stormy 
night, a bright light was seen, which finally took the human 
shape, and bore off the murderer. 

A light hovers about a stone on the coast of Cornwall, 
called Madge Figg's Chair. § It was said to be the ghost 
of a wrecked lady whom Madge stripped of her jewels. 

A light is said also to appear in Sennen Cove, which is 
thought to be an ill-omened apparition, the Hooper (from 
the whooping sound emitted). A fisherman once passed 
in his boat, when it had sounded, but never got back again. 

Flames are reported as issuing from the Eider river, and 
from several lakes, m Germany, generally portending 

Lights were seen in a spectral ship that appeared off a 
port in Cornwall. They were called Jack Harry's lights, 
from a pilot who discovered them. || Hunt tells the tale, in 
this pilot's words: " Some five years ago, on a Sunday 
night, the wind being strong, our crew heard of a large 

* Golden Leg-end. 

+ Curiosltiee of Natural History. 

t Folk-lore of Scotland. 

I BottreU.— TraditionB and Fireside Stories of W. Cornwall. 

1 Romances and Drolls of the West of England. 


vessel in the offing, after we came out of chapel. We 
manned our little boat, the Ark, and away we went, under 
dose-reefed foresails and little mizzen, the sea going over 
us at a sweet rate. We had gone off four or five miles, and 
we thought we were up alongside, when lo! she slipped to 
windward a league." She slipped away again, the delusive 
light appearing further out each time. 

* The spectre of a lady hunting for her child on the 
beach at Cornwall, referred to above, is accompanied with 

The appearance of these lights over water portends 
drowning, in the west of England. 

" Corpse candles " are said to have rested near the graves 
of a drowned boat's crew at Penrose, such as Moore de- 

\ " Where lights, like charnel meteors, burned the distant wave, 
Bluely as o'er some seaman's grave, 
And fiery darts, at intervals. 
Flew up, all sparkling, from the main." 

Drake says (1817) that the superstitions with regard to 
those corpse-lights were belived in France, Italy, Germany 
and England, in his time. 

I Captain Leather, Chief Magistrate of Belfast, being 
wrecked in 1790, on the Isle of man, was told that thirteen 
of his crew were lost, as thirteen corpse candles were seen 
moving towards the churchyard. Thirteen men had been 

§ Sikes, in his recent work, " British Goblins," relates a 
tale of passengers in a coach, seeing lights over a ford, and, 
a few days after, just as many men were drowned there, 
confirming the current belief that these "corpse-candles" 
portend drowning. 

There is a Welsh tale of a spectre, the Cyhyreath, that ap- 
pears on the beach, in a light, with groanings and cries, and 
always foretelling wreck. Corpses always come ashore 
after it is heard, in Glamorganshire. 

An Irish story of an enchanted lake records the appear- 
ance of these lights over drowned bodies. 

Many of the tales of spectre ships, given in another chap- 
ter, also include the appearance of these lights, especially 

* Bottrell— Traditions and Fireaide Stories of W. Cornwall. 

t Sacheverell.— Isle of Man. 


in those of Solway Firth, and in other Scottish tales, as well 
as of those on our own coast. 

* French sailors have a curious legend to account for the 
phosphorescence of the sea. Satan, they say, constructed a 
three-masted ship, out of wood cut in his domain. This 
ship smelled of sulphur, and sowed a pest for a hundred 
leagues around. Satan assembled therein many souls of 
those who died in a sinful state, which gave him great joy, 
for when a fresh lot fell into his coppers, he laughed extrav- 
agantly. This laugh irritated St. Elmo, who, finally en- 
raged by these things, and by the piracies of the vssel's 
master, pierced the hull by a sudden stroke. The devil, 
buzily engaged in counting a fresh accession to his spoils, 
was barely able to save himself by swimming. The saint 
made a toothpick of the mast, and a handkerchief of the 

So when the night is dark and the air warm, the ship 
burns again, the smell of sulphur is noticed, and the flames 
mount to the sky. 

Pomeranian sailors say it is the devil voyaging in a burn- 
ing cask of tar, and presages great disasters. In Scotch 
waters, it is also a bad omen, when appearing at night, and 
is called "sea-fire," "water-fire," "water-burn," etc. 

In Scotland, the apparition of a spectral " lady of the 
golden casket," was attended by a phantom light. 

Mariners said that St. Ninian's Kirk, standing in a deso- 
late bay, was occasionally filled with lights, and they feared 
to enter there, as they portended wreck and disaster. 

The Palatine light on Block Island, on our own coast, 
connected by Whittier with the legend of the spectre ship 
Palatine, is declared by Livermore f to have no connection 
with it, but is asserted by many to have been seen, a lumin- 
ous emanation from the surface of the water. A letter 
written by a resident, in 1811, describes it as now small, 
now high and extended like a ship, pyramidal, or in three 
streamers like a ship, flickering and reappearing, but not 
lasting longer than three minutes. It is seen before easterly 
and southerly storms, and at all seasons. 

J Flame's are said also to issue from old wrecks on Sable 
Island, the surface of the ocean being covered with them, 
some being twenty feet in altitude. 

♦Dubarry. — Roman d'un Baleinier, in Mel., Aug-ust, 1884. 

+ History of Block Island. 

tSecrets of Sable Island.— C. Halleck, In Harpei's ilag., Vol. V, p. 34. 


Spectral lights are seen in two places in the Gulf of St. 
Lawrence. In one place, they were seen by an emigrant 
ship, burning for two hours from midnight, and looking like 
a burning vessel. They were a sign of impending wreck. A 
French pilot described them as early as 1811. 

* Lights, said to indicate a northwest gale, are seen in 
Chaleur Bay, even coming on ice. They are described in 
the Colonial Times (Miramichi), of November 2, 1801, "It 
appears as if the hull of a vessel was on fire." A ship is 
said to have been wrecked in a northwesterly gale, and 
afterwards some of the crew, who had murdered others, 
were again wrecked and destroyed. Another legend says 
the latter were pirates. 

But to return to the St. Elmo light. We find a belief in 
the supernatural character of the lights among the Chinese. 
fDoolittle says they believe that their sea-goddess, the 
"Mother of Heaven," appears in these lights. If they rise, 
the indications are evil; if they descend, the portent is 
good. They thus reverse the European rule, as in many 
other things. 

As we have seen, the lights have been called after a 
variety of names. 

Helena, St. Helene, Helenen feuer and Heleneneld; Cas- 
tor and Pollux, Leda's twins; St Elmo, St. Elemi, St. An- 
selmo, St. Ermjm, Santelmo, St. Telme, St. Helm, St. Ermo, 
and St. Elmo feur; Hermes, St. Hermes, St. Nicholas, St. 
Peter, St. Claire, and St. Elias feur; Corposant, Cormazant, 
Comazaht,.Ampizant, Corpusant, Corpusanse, Cuerpo San- 
to; Fermies' Fire, J Capra Saltante, Sainte Herbe, La Feu 
des Gabiers, Corbie's Aunt, Helenen Feuer, Friedefeuer, 
Elmo vuer. Zee Licht, Fire Drake, Dipsas fuole, Looke fu- 
ole, Furoles, Flammeroles, and Flambars; San Pedro de 
Gonzales; Coroa de Nossa Senhora; Vree vuuren, Wetter- 
licht, Veirlys, and Helle and Phryxus, comprise these varied 

We have given some reasons for calling it St. Elmo. Its 
French titles would seem to point to the ancient name, but 
the St. Helena of the middle-ages was the empress of Con- 
stantine the Great, who, undertaking a vo)'age to Palestine 
in search of the true cross, was venerated by mariners. 
§ Mrs. Jameson says St. Elme is St. Erasmus, who is shown 

* Le Moine. — Chronicles of the St. Lawrence. 
■f " Chinese." 

J See Melusine, August, 1884. 

S Legends of the Madonna and the Saints. 


' in early art with a lighted taper on his head. * Ruscalli 
says St. Ermo was buried at Gaeta, and his tomb was ven- 
erated by mariners two centuries ago. Becchi says he was 
a Sicilian bishop. At sea, in a storm, he was taken very ill. 
He promised the distressed mariners, in dying, that he 
would appear if they were destined to be saved. After his 
death, a light appeared at the mast-head, and was named 
for him. 

Another authority says St. Elmo is St. Erasmus, a Chris- 
tian martyr (A.D. 303), who is usually invoked by Mediter- 
ranean mariners. 

Saint Claire, or Santa Clara, was a virgin of Assisi, the 
patron saint of sailors, as was, above all, St. Nicholas. We 
may strongly suspect that clair, clear, is the origin of that 

Corpo Santo, and its variations, means the Holy Ghost, 
supposed to appear, as in the instances we have given, and 
in the French phantom-ship story. 

Buckland thinks Corposant comes from the French coin 
3/aza«/, " blazing wedge." The Fire-drake was originally a 
sort of fire-works. In German tradition, Fiir Drak is the 
evil one, " often seen passing through the air as a fiery 

The other names have been explained, or indicate their 
own origin. St. Elias is a favorite Eastern saint, and Her- 
mes, or Mercury, a classical messenger. 

AH the attempts, ancient and modem, to explain these 
lights as supernatural, seem now ridiculous, in the light of 
modern science. As over marshes and pools on land, so at 
sea, these electrical manifestations only occur in the rarefied 
air-gases, before or during a storm. These are naturally 
adherent to the iron of the spars, but, if touched, will harm- 
lessly stream from human fingers, or at the most, give a 
slight shock to the experimenter. 

* Notes to Hoole's Arlosto. 




" Upon a sea more vast and dark 
The spirits of the dead embark. 
All voyaging to unknown coasts." 

Longfellow — The Golden Legend. 

"There Charon stands, who rules the dreary coast. 

He spreads his canvas; with his pole he steers; 

The freight of flitting ghosts in his thin bottom bears," 

Dryden's ^neid, B. vi. 

>HE mysterious islands described 
in the last chapter, do not com- 
prise all that was thought and 
written concerning such lands 
in the waste of waters encom- 
passing the globe. Many such 
are reserved for the present chapter, 
as they are inextricably interwoven 
with the legends of mysterious voy- 
ages, ghostly barks, and spectral 
forms that suffice to fill a volume. 

Legends of a voyage at the end 
of life's journey, where a river is to 
be crossed, or an ocean, are found in 
remote antiquity. 
*The dead bodies of the Egyptians, after 
embalming, were conveyed by water through 
the canals, across the lakes toward the setting sun, where 
lay the sepulchres, in many cases. And to the westward 
lay the Earthly Paradise. The Greek Charon, ferrying 
souls over the Styx, is familiar to most readers. Sometimes 
the water was Avernus, Cocytus, Acheron, or the Acheru- 
sian lakes of the lower world. 

* Keary.— Outlines of Primitive Belief, p. 272. 



* In the Vedas, the river is Vaiterafii, " hard to cross" and 
the dead were not long since committed to the care of 
the sacred Ganges in a boat, with a funeral fire kindled in 
it. But the Greeks transferred these rivers to the under 
world, and so they named the 

'Abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate. 
Sad Acheron, of sorrow black and deep 
Cocytus named of lamentation loud." 

These names themselves, Acheron and Acherusia, are 
supposed to be derived from the same root as aqua, water. 

These were under-world rivers. But the stream of death 
was more commonly on earth. It was earliest a river of 
death, and only became a sea later in men's history. 

Among the early Aryans, this river was often an aerial 
stream, in the great air-sea above us. 

The soul, which, with the spirit, the breath or ghost, was 
identified, as we have seen, with the wind, was thus, at 
death, borne along through the water)' element to some 
unknown land, either Hades or Hel (the concealed, or hid- 
den), or to Paradise (the high land). In time, the aerial 
stream, as well as the under-world river, became rivers of 
earth, and the abodes of souls were localized also in various 
remote parts of the earth's surface. 

These river-myths grew into a great tribe of similar 
legends, even extending into a sea of death, the path 
(Pontus) to the abode of souls. The sea of death appears 
in all the Aryan folk-lore, in forms and legends too numer- 
ous to mention here. 

As Miss Harrison aptly puts it; " We remember that for 
centuries the sea voyage has been the symbol of the troub- 
lesome waves of this world, and the transit to the next." 

On Greek tombs, the words " Euploia " (favorable voy- 
age) show the popular ideas on the subject. For this, 
modern Greeks substitute a pair of oars, laid on the grave. 

The first great sea epics are now supposed to be accounts 
of the soul voyage.f The Odyssey, since it has been care- 
fully studied, has been declared a succession of tales of such 
voyages, and the famous Argonautic expedition is as cer- 
tainly a myth of the sun voyage or of the soul's migration. 
Both were made in the western sea, although later legends 
represent Jason as sailing to the eastward in the Euxine. 

* Keary.— Outlines of Primitive Belief, 281. 
tKeary.— Outlines of Primitire Belief. 296. 


Both were doubtless to the westward, the home of the set 
ting sun, whose night journey was early typical of the soul- 
voyage. So, in Egyptian sculptures, Osiris, the sun god, 
journeys in the under-world in his golden bark, attended by 
the hours. An invocation to the sun-god in a papyrus 
reads, — 

* " Oh thou ruler of the waters, that cometh up out of the river. 

Sit thou on the deck of the solar bark." 

Thus these imaginary voyages are to the westward, and 
have ever continued in that direction. 

The mysterious Argo, which bore the Greek heroes in 
their search for the golden fleece, which, like the golden 
apples of the Hesperian gardens, lay across the waters, will 
be alluded to again. Ulysses' ship, in which he journeys 
from Circe's Island to Hades, was a true death ship. Circe 
says, — 

f " Soon shalt thou reach old Ocean's utmost bounds, 

There fix thy vessel in the lonely bay, 
And enter there the kingdoms void of day." 

J The Phseacian ships in the " Odyssey " are also ships of 
the dead. " No pilots have they, no oars, no rudders, and 
they know the thoughts of men." They carry souls to Al- 
cinous's gardens of Paradise. In one, Odysses is laid asleep, 
and returned to Greece. 

The Ichthyophagi and the Lotophagi, according to Ptole- 
my, buried their dead in the sea. Hector was buried in an 
ark-shaped boat, or Larnax. 

Popular belief shrouded Pontus with darkness. This is 
indicated by its modern title of Black Sea, which it gets in 
most European tongues. This Pontus was the. path or way 
to the new home of the Aryan, as well as to the under 

These legends, as men became more and more acquainted 
with navigation, were transferred to the west, as the earthly 
paradise was so transferred. So the sea became in later 
times the River of Death. § That it was early so regarded 
we may believe, for from a Sanscrit root are the two words, 
meer, sea, and mors, death, derived, and Ulysses sails across 

* Eecords of the Past. 

+ Pope's Odyssey, Book X. 

X Keary.— Outlines of Prlnilfi've Belief, p. 323. 

IKeary.— Outlines of PriTiitive Belief, o. 29S. 


the Western Sea to Hades, and to other Hells and Paradises. 
From being a river around the world, Oceanus became a 
sea, and thus a sea of death was to be traversed. 

Similar myths of the sea of death exist in all Aryan my- 
thology. Ancient Norsemen called it Gjoll (the sounding). 
* Thorpe says Gjoll is the horizon, and has reference to the 
sun sinking with a sound. Here the sea is again mixed up 
with the myths of death. 

f The Norseman named the home of the dead, Nava, 
which word seems to hint at the ship and nautical origins. 
In the legends of Baldur, the great hero, he is set afloat in 
his ship " Hringhorn " and in a pyre, set adrift at sea. 

This ship Hringhorn was the greatest of all ships. The 
Eddasay:J "After their sorrow was a little appeased, they 
carried the body of Baldur down toward the sea, where 
stood the vessel of that god, which passed for the largest in 
the world. But when the gods wanted to launch it into the 
water, in order to make a funeral pile for Baldur, they could 
never make it stir, wherefore they caused to come from the 
country of the giants a sorceress." This sorceress was Hyr- 
rokin (smoking fire), "Then the sorceress, bending over the 
prow of the vessel, set it afloat with one single efiort, which 
was so violent that the fire sparkled from the keel as it was 
dragging to the water." 

§ We have here another myth of the sun and of death. 
Baldur is the Sun-god, Hringhorn the Sun's disk, and this 
burial the sunset, t3'pifying the journey of the dead. 

II Sigmundr carries his son Sinfiotli, and puts him in a 
boat brought by a stranger, leaving him to his fate. 

** Jarl Magus was conveyed, with his widow, to the Holy 
Land in a ship. \\ Flosi was abandoned, in a leaky ship, to 
the mercy of the waves. 

Scyld was also so buried. Beowulf says: "They bore 
him to the sea-shore, as he himself requested. There, on 
the beach, stood the ring-prowed ship, the vehicle of the 
noble, ready to set out. They laid down the dear prince, 
the distributor of things, in the bosom of the ship, the 
mighty one beside the mast. They set up a golden-ensign 
high overhead. They gave him to the deep." 

♦Northern Mythology. 

+ Keary.— Myths of the Sea and River of Death, Cont. Rev., 1883. 

t Grimnismal. — Saenmndr Edda, 39, 

8 Keary. —Outlines of Primitive Belief, p. lOL 

G Sgemimdr Edda, 170. 

** Jarl MagTis Saga, 45. 

++ Dasent,— Burnt NjaL 


*Sceaff (Skiff), another hero, was found, when a child, 
floating in a ship, with a treasure in the vessel. Tradition- 
ally, he was a descendant of Odin, and a progenitor of the 
Danish Royal Skyldings. At his death, he also was placed, 
as William of Malmesburg says, " According to a custom of 
parts of Scandinavia," in a boat, with a sheaf of corn at his 
head, and set adrift on the sea. The Saxon Chronicle says 
he was a son of Noah, born in the ark. 

We read in the Heimskringla: " King Hake had been so 
grievously wounded, that he saw his days would not be 
long; so he ordered a war-ship which he had, to be loaded 
with his dead men, and their weapons, and to be taken out 
to sea, the tiller to be shipped, and the sails hoisted. Then 
he set fire to some tar-wood, and ordered a pile to be made 
of it in the ship. Hake was almost, if not quite dead, when 
he was laid upon this pile of his. The wind was blowing 
off the land, the ship flew, burning a clear flame, out be- 
tween the islets, and into the ocean." 

Asmundr, Geimundr, and others, were buried in ships, 
and such burial became so common that an early law pre- 
scribed the number of slaves to embark in the boat with a 
chieftain's body, varying in number from one to ten. \ Odin 
has a golden ship in which he conveys souls to Valhalla. 
The river to be crossed was there Gurungu-gap, and Val- 
halla, the hall of heroes, was in Godheim, or Paradise. 

J This vessel is traditionally buried in Runemad, in 

The Vikings' boat, found in 1881, in a mound near San- 
defjord, Norway, has in it a sepulchral chamber, in which a 
man's bones were found. It was pointed with its prow to 
the sea. 

These death-ships abounded in the middle ages. They 
move of their own will, without oars, sails, or rudder some- 
times, are of all sizes and shapes, and some, like " Skid- 
bladnir," fold up, or diminish into small space. King 
Arthur is borne to Avalon in such a death ship. 

§ Layamon says: "There approached from the sea a 
little short boat, floating with the waves, and two women 
therein wondrously formed, and they took Arthur anon, 
and bare him quickly, and laid him softly down, and forth 

• Keary. — Outlines of Primitive Belief, p. 469. 

+ Grimm.— Teut. Mythology. 

t Afzelius.— Svenska Folks Visor, I., 4. 

I Brut 


they gan depart." The tale is told in full, in the old chron- 
icle of the Arthurian deeds. 

* Sir Galahad goes in one, in search of the Holy Grail, 
and legends represent this soul-carrying bark as telling the 
life-story or the wrongs of the souls embarking in it, and in 
the story of the " Fair Maid of Astolat," Hermanic became 
the ship of Faith, warning the mistrustful not to embark. 
It carries Sir Parsifal to the spiritual place. 

jThe Demoiselle D'Escalot "begged to have her body 
put into a ship richly equipped, that would be suffered to 
drift at the mercy of the winds." 

So Tennyson represents Elaine as set adrift in a barge, 
Tvith a mute slave at the helm. 

The old German tribes generally believed in a ferryman 
of souls. JThe Rhine became the German Styx in one of 
these stories, a fishermen being called upon one calm night 
to ferry monks across, his boat each time mysteriously 
wafted back by a gale. Mysterious persons, in other tales, 
call fishermen at night, and leave quantities of gold to pay 
for their passage. 

Such stories are told of ferrymen or fishermen at Spires, 
and at Saalfeld, in the Weser. It is Perchta, goddess of 
death, who calls the boat, in the last story. 

§The bodies of St. Maternus, in the Rhine, and of St. 
Emmeranus, in the Danube, were mysteriously borne up 
these rivers in rudderless boats. 

A Cologne legend says a certain learned Jew, Rabbi 
Amram, left the following request behind him: "When I 
am dead, place me in a coffin, and put it in a boat on the 
Rhine, and let it go where it will." This was done, and 
the boat is said to have floated up the Rhine to Mayence. 
When it arrived, if a Christian tried to touch it, the boat 
would drift back, and Jews only were able to remove the 

There is a bay of the departed in Brittany, near Cape 
Raz (Bale des Trepasses), where boats were summoned, 
according to the fishermen, to convey souls, especially of 
drowned men, to Isle au Sein, or the Isle of the Dead. 
II This boat is, in local tradition, crowded with invisible 
passengers, whose wails and cries are heard. Later, this 

* Cox.— Aryan Mythology, Bk. I, Cliap. 6. 

+ Romance of Lady of the Lake, 13»1. Grinun, I, 83L 

$Wolf. — Deutsches Sapen. 

f Keary.— Outlines of Primitive Belief, 459. 

I Vlllemarqu6.— Barzas Breiz, vol. I. 


tradition was applied to Great Britain, then to Ireland, and 
so on to the westward; and the inhabitants and fishermen 
are represented as serving as ferrymen. 

*At Guildo, on the Breton coast, small skiffs are said to 
come out at night, from under the cliffs, and row away 
with the souls of mariners, who have been drowned. All 
fear to pass the spot at night. 

The Rhone was also a death-stream, and was sacred as 
late as the twelfth century, the dead often being committed 
to its care. 

Philip of Rennes, was traditionally carried from St. 
Vilaine to Rennes in an oarless boat. 

f Middle-age legends represent that the soul of Dagobert 
was wafted to the terrestrial paradise in a ship. As Walter 
of Aquitaine, was sailing to Ireland, he met a ghostly ship, 
with a black crew and captain, which latter, when asked 
where he was going, replied: "I flee from the archbishop, 
and I go to Hades." 

According to a legend of 1585, the devil engaged all the 
'children in Holland to go on a crusade, and got them on 
board ship, but they never came back. 

J Old Finnish legend represents Wainamoinen, the great 
hero, as being rowed to the lower world by Tuoni, goddess 
of death, in a black boat, built by Manata, daughter of the 
king of death. 

There is a Spanish legend of a certain Count Arnaldos, 
who saw at sea a galley- slowly drawing near the land, and 
in it an old sailor, who sang a wondrous sweet song. When 
asked to stop and sing the song, he replies: 

%" 1 can tell the song to no one 
Save to him who sails with me." 

.Longfellow has a poem on this subject. 

II A tradition exists that Pope Pius II. (Piccolomini) 
found at the bottom of the river Numicius a galley coated 
with bitumen, iron, and lead, and in it a coffer and amphora, 
believed to contain the ashes of the Roman emperor Ti- 

**An Irish legend relates that a boat, moved by a hun- 

*S6billot. — Ciontes des Paysans et Pecheurs. 

tLudlow.— Popular Epics. Vol.1. 

tLe Due. — Kafevala. 

SPoems. — '■ Sea and Shore." 

lEenard.— Les MerveiUes del' Art Naval, 17T. 

"McPherson.— Int. to History of Great Britain. 


dred self-impelled oars, and white sails, but with no crew, 
appeared out of a dark cloud in a storm, to a certain Druid, 
at Skerr. A voice said, "Behold the boat of the heroes!" 
He entered in it, and journeyed seven days to the westward, 
arriving at Flath Innis, or Noble island, a terrestrial para- 

*Boat burial has been common among many nations. 
Keary gives an account of an early instance of this, among 
the Russ people in 942-76. The bodies of the poorest and 
richest alike were buried in boats. After burial in a ditch 
for ten days, a boat is prepared. " I went to the banks of 
the stream on which was the vessel of the dead. I saw that 
they had drawn the ship to land, and men were engaged in 
fixing it upon four stakes, and had placed around it wooden 
stakes. On to the vessel they bore a wooden platform, a 
mattress and cushions, covered with a Roman material of 
golden cloth." When the time came, the body, richly 
attired, was placed thereon, and with that of a strangled 
female slave, a dog, two horses, and three fowls, was buried 
along with the weapons of the deceased. 

f Ralston says all Slavonic people believe in the voyage 
and river of death, and coins are still placed in graves. 

JScheffer says Lapps and Ostiaks buried their dead in 
boats, or boat-shaped coffins. 

§ The Garrows of Bengal still burn their dead in a boat, 
four days after death. Borneo Kanowits set adrift a canoe 
containing some worthless property of the deceased, to 
typify the whole of his possessions. The sea Dyaks also 
place their dead in a canoe, with some property, and set it 
adrift. ||The boats used in the funeral procession of Thrien 
Thri, a king of Cochin China, in 1849, were burned on his 
pyre. The dead are still carried to the grave in boats or 
barges, in Siam, just as in the Parish of Plougoel, in Brit- 
tany, they are rowed by a longer way than the land route, 
through a passage called " passage of hell." 

Canoe burial is reported of many Indian tribes. The 
Musquitos burned their dead in a canoe, or cut the boat up, 
and placed it in the grave. The Aleuts used boat-shaped 
coffins. ** The Shokomishes, Clallams, Chinooks, Flat- 

* Outlines of Primitive Belief, 403. 

+ Songs of the Russian People, pp. 107-8. 

t Lapponia. 

I Tyler.— Anthropology. 

I ^ler.— Primitive Culture, p. 489. 

"Bancroft.— Native Races, Vol. I, p. 206. 





heads, Nootkans, and some Columbia river tribes buried 
their dead in canoes elevated on poles. 

Swan says some old boats lying on a point of land in 
Shoalwater Bay, were deemed the property of departed 
spirits, and were never molested. Wilkes found 3,000 
canoes in one cemetery. 

*The Cherokees and Chinooks sometimes buried their 
dead in the sea, as did the Ilzas of Guatemala, and the 

Esquimaux often placed a kayak in or near the grave, or 
at least a model of one, to assist the deceased in his journey. 

The Greeks early invented a traditional fare for the dead 
ferryman (the naulas), and an obolus was put into the mouth 
of the corpse to pay the passage. This custom existed in 
the Middle Ages in France and Germany, and bodies were 
found in a church-yard in France in 1630, with coins in the 
graves. The Chinese put a coin in the coffin, to pay the 
passage or fare of the corpse, f The custom is not yet ex- 
tinct in Burgundy, and in Altmark, Havelland, and other 
parts of Germany it also survives, although the coin is now 
a charm to keep away a vampire (Nachzehrer). 

In Markland, when several deaths occur in a family, it 
is because the penny was omitted in the case of the first one. 

Wallachians still put the obolus in the mouth of the 
corpse, and Baring Gould says a man was buried not long 
ago in Yorkshire, with a penny, a candle and a bottle of 
wine in his grave. 

We find in " Hamlet," the grave-digger says, — 

"And hath shipped -rae. intill the land, 
As if I had never been such," 

possibly alluding to this belief of a death-ferryman. Nor 
are the savage tribes without such legends. In " Hiawatha " 
we find he 

" Came unto the Lake of Silver, 
In the Stone Canoe was carried 
To the Islands of the Blessed, 
To the lands of ghosts and shadows. '' 

I The Athabascas and Chippeways had also a stone 
canoe in which souls crossed the waters. Many Indian 
tribes cross the water, on their way to heaven. 

A Dacotah tale is of a youth who journeyed south in 

» Bancroft,— Native Haoes. Vancouver's Voyagea, Vol. 11, p. 546. 

+ Grimm. —Teutonic Mj-thology. 

t Jones.— Traditions of the American I,jdiiins, p. 366. 


search of the abode of souls, the entrance of which is 
guarded by Chibiabos. A canoe of shining white stone 
conveys souls across the lake. 

*The Fijians embarked from the northwest cape of their 
island, being rowed by a Charon to Mbula, a land of spirits. 
As the soul approaches, a paroquet g^ves warning of it. 

fMangaians journeyed to the west in a mystic canoe, 
called in a song, Puvai's canoe. Williams and Mariner 
were told by Fijians that they could see the souls of canoes 
floating down a spirit stream. 

New Zealand tribes have their death-bark, and a woman 
was said to have made the final journey, and returned to 

In the Soloman Islands, a canoe comes to the West 
Cape, and carries all the dead to Gotogo, their heaven. 

J Chilian souls went westward in a death-bark, and Aus- 
tralian legends embody similar fictions. § The Chinese, sixty 
days after death, place on the water an egg-shell, and an 
image of a duck with a man astride of it; the duck and 
boat are to assist the soul — represented by the small figure 
— in its voyage. 

Thus we see, there has existed from antiquity, a belief in 
the death voyage, and as a consequence, we shall find num- 
erous myths of a terrestrial abode of souls. 

My thologists claim that the ideas of primitive nations as to 
these abodes of the soul or breath (psyche) became localized 
gradually to this earth from their former aerial or heavenly 
positions. There is generally a water to be crossed, be it 
Styx, Acheron, or the Atlantic, and then the soul arrives at 
an island or continent, generally to the westward. Th^ 
ancient Egj'ptian rowed across the Nile, or over the lake to 
the westward, and to the westward lay the evening mirage, 
and the desert became the sea of death to the inland tribes. 
In fact, philologists tell us that sea and desert were once iden- 
tical, and possibly both corresponded to death, in the mind 
of the Aryan. II For the same word gave rise to mare, sea, 
meru, desert, and mors, death {murder also). Rivers were at 
first the death-streams, and even the Caspian, the first sea 
known to the Aryans, was a river around the world. The 
iEgean, or Pontus, next became Xh^ path of souls, and across 

* Gill.— Myths and Songs of the South Pacific, fll. 

t Gill.— 3Iyths and Songs of the South Paciflc. 

± Tylor.— Primitive Culture H, p. 61. 

§ Doobttle. — Chinese. 

I Kearj.- SiTths of the Sea and Blver of Death. 


the circumambient Ocean lay the Cimmerian land, which 
abode of shades Ulysses visits in the "Od)'ssey." 

These fabled islands early became the traditional homes 
of souls, lost or saved, and thus we have, in all ages, stories 
of Isles of the Blessed across the waters of death. The terres- 
trial abodes of condemned souls, Hades, or Hel (both words 
meaning unseen or concealed), were early reputed to be islands, 
and the belief was closely connected with the Charon-boat 
and the sea of death. At first these islands were reported 
as being in the ^Egean Sea, and only as the other parts of 
the Mediterranean became known, were these fabled islands 
removed farther and farther from the seats of Grecian civil- 
ization, even into the Atlantic. 

These many fictions of mysterious islands would be 
strengthened and localized by the tales of wandering Phoe- 
nician and Greek mariners. So, many of Homer's myths of 
foreign lands seem to be compounded of real and imaginary 

The prevalence of Sun-worship doubtless aided in fornf- 
ing these myths. We have seen how this is apparent in the 
early myths of the sea of death. Homer says the sun rises 
and sets in the ocean, and travels along the surface in his 
shining bowl. * The Jewish Midrash compares the course 
of the sun with that of a ship with three hundred and sixty- 
five ropes in it, coming from Great Britian, or one from 
Alexandria with three hundred and fifty-six ropes in it 
(Lunar year). Egyptians represented him as performing 
his night journey in the ocean, and hence it was to them 

The Homeric books give us the first tales of such mys- 
terious islands. The first purgatories are Ogygia (Ocean 
place) and M.a.& (land of wailing). 

The islands of Calypso and of Circe were mysterious 
abodes, f Keary has shown them to be homes of the dead. 
Calypso (from kalyptein, to conceal) is none other than the 
Norse Hel, the concealer, and is death dwelling in her cave 
by the sea-side. Circe is the hawk, or death in bird-shape. 

From her island, or Purgatory, Ulysses sails direct to 
Hades, just beyond the Cimmerians. Scheria, Lotos-land, 
and Hesperia, were Homeric paradises, the first and last 
fabled islands remote from Ulysses' Ithacan home. Scheria, 
the land of the Phaeacians/ means shore, and lies " at the end 

♦ Goldhlzer.— Myth3 Anione the Hebrews, lOL 
+ Outlines .—Primitive Belief. 


of the watery plain." The trees of Alcinous' garden are 
perpetually green, and we have seen that the Phaeacians 
were carriers of souls. 

This Paradise, at first in the east, was transferred to the 
west, among the Blameless Ethiopians or Hyperboreans, 
following the course of the Sun again. " By a train of fancy 
easy to follow, it is often held that the home of the dead 
has to do with that far west where the sun dies at night." 

So Hesperia, at first in Africa, was finally transferred ta 
Spain, and then to the Atlantic islands. 

An early locality for these mysterious abodes was in the 
North. * There lay Olympus, home of the gods. There 
were the Hyperboreans, the Cimmerians, and ^olia, the 
abode of the god of the winds. Aristotle and Indicopleustes 
say the suii goes northward in his under-world journey, and 
Pytheas confirms this, by saying that he was shown the 
place where the sun dwelt at night; that is, he saw the mid- 
night sun. Diodorus says there was a feast among the 
Hyperboreans in the Island of the Gods, every nineteenth 
year. Amber, says Pliny, comes from this garden of the 
gods, dropping from the trees, and drifting to northern 
shores. Avalon, to which Arthur was taken, was to the 

fTwo recent authors discuss the subject of the Northern 
Paradise, from a scientific standpoint. 

So fixed in the minds of men became these traditions of 
earthly paradises, just out of sight of African headlands, 
that ages afterwards these islands were still sought, to the 
westward of the Azores and Madeiras, although the fabled 
Atlantis had been overwhelmed in the waves. 

In the middle ages, these legends became abundant, 
doubtless aided by saintly authority and church sanction. 
Justin Martyr says Paradise is in the Western Atlantic. 
Claudian says an island exists near Gaul, ruled over by 
Ulixes, where the spirits of the departed abide. 

In Norse mythology, Jotuuheim, or giants' home, a cold 
region beyond the ocean stream, was, like Cimmeria, a sort 
of purgatory. 

Many fables v/ere related of these Atlantic, and of the 
Panichaean, islands. The golden apples of Hesperic gardens 
are, perhaps, oranges brought by Phoenician mariners from 
far-off Africa or Spain. Proclus says, on the authority of 

• Keary. — Myths of the Sea and River of Death. 

+ Warren.— Paradise Found— 1885. Scribner.— Where Did Life Begin? 


Marcellus, that there were seven Atlantic islands,^-one ded- 
icated to Pluto, one to Ammon, and one to Poseidon. 
Euhemerus tells us of Panichaean islands, inhabited by 
god-like men. 

These Atlantic islands, elsewhere numbered as ten, were 
appropriately governed by Neptune's sons, and it was 
further said that weeds and debris long impeded ships, and 
their sinking traditionally accounted for the Sargasso Sea of 

* Plato tells us this, "For in those days the Atlantic was 
navigable, and there was an island situated in front of the 
strait which you call the Columns of Hercules. . . . But 
afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods, 
and in a single day and night of rain, all your warlike men 
in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in 
like manner disappeared and sank beneath the sea. And 
that is the reason why the sea in those parts is impassable and 
impenetrable, because there is such a quantity of shoals and 
mud in the way, caused by the sinking of the island. ' 
Plato further says the Egyptians (from whom these ac 
counts were derived) told Solon that this occurred 9,000 B.C 

Hesiod calls the Western Islands the Isles of Souls, 
f Proclus says, " There life is easiest unto men; no snow or 
wintry storms, or rain at any time is there." 

Diodorus says Panchaia was southward from Arabia Fe- 
lix, and was also sunk in the sea. 

Thor was rowed across the death stream by Harbarth,| 
whose boat would not bear the weight of a living person. 
Germ the Wise also sailed to the West with three ships. 
They landed on an island of flocks and herds, from which 
they took more than they needed, and in consequence were 
pursued by a band of fearful monsters, who only left them 
when three men were sacrificed to them. In another island, 
Biarmia, they found the paradise and purgatory. 

Leonardo de Argensola sa)'s there is a desert, rocky 
island, Poelsetta, near Italy. Cries, roarings, groanings 
and other sounds were heard in it, and it was fabled to be 
peopled by devils. 

Marco Polo represents Cipangu as a sort of terrestrial 
paradise, a city of golden streets, and of white-robed inhab- 

•Tlmasus, 11,617. 

+ Boeck. — Fragments. 

tKeary.— Outlines of PrimltlTe Belief. 


* Onogorojima, the island of the congealed drop, was a 
fabled Japanese Paradise. 

f Allusion has been made to a traditionary isle of the 
dead near Cape Raz, in the Bay of Deposit. This " Isle 
au Sein " was said to be peopled by souls of the departed, 
and fishermen were said to be called to ferry souls over. 

Another spot on the coast of France is traditionally in- 
habited by the souls of drowned persons, and fishermen 
fear to approach the opposite beach, at night, where phan- 
toms are believed to wander. 

I A Breton legend is told of a fabled island of souls, and 
a death ferryman at Carnoet ferry, in a Breton stream. A 
young couple came along to cross the ferry, but the lover 
lingered behind, and the maiden was induced to enter the 
boat, while waiting for him. She was spirited away in the 
boat, forgetting to make the sign of the cross. 

§ In Norse mythology, Heligoland, as indicated by its 
name, was a sacred island, the abode of the gods, and was 
reverenced by early mariners. 

There was n sacred fountain on it, where early Christians 
were baptized. 

H Hornum, near the Danish coast, is said to be inhabited 
only by the ghosts of murderers, strandwalkers, sea-women, 
fiends, etc. **A group of islands near Norway are also rep- 
resented as being inhabited by elves, and fit only for graz- 

f f Russians believe in an island paradise, Boyan, to the 

The Cimbri called the Northern Ocean Mari Mortuus 
(sea of the dead), and German-lore gave us a Dumslaf (fro- 
zen sea) of wondrous properties. 

Helvoetsfuis, at the mouth of the Maas, was another 
fabled islet of souls, and many legends concerning it were 

JJ; These fancies of antiquity descended to later times. 
Procopius, an early Gothic historian, says Brittia, in the 
Northern Ocean, was in his day the fabled abode of souls. 

♦ Warren.— Paradise Found, p. 140. 
+ Cambry.— Voy. dans la Finnisterre, If, p. 3tO. 

t Th. and K. McQuoid.— Pictures and Legends of Normandy and Brittany, 
p. 19. 

§ Grimm. — Deutsche Mytbologie. Vol. I, p. 150. 
I Thorpe. — Northern Mythology, Vol. IL p. 8. 
** Landria. — Les Monstres Marine. 30. 
t+ Kalston.— Songs of the Biissian People, p. 375. 
tt History Goths, Ck. IV, Ch. 40. Keury, p. 437. 


The home of the dead was beyond, noxious to living beings, 
but peopled by souls ferried across by fishermen from the 
opposite coast. These, called in turn at night, find barks 
laden with souls, and are wafted over by mysterious winds. 

*Tzetes, another chronicler, says: "On the coast of the 
ocean opposite Brittania (England), dwell fishermen who 
are subjects of the Franks, but they pay them no tribute, 
on account, as they say, of their ferrying over the souls of 
the departed. They go to sleep in their houses in the even- 
ing, but after a little time they hear a knocking at the door, 
and a voice calling them to their work. They get up and go 
to the shore, not knowing what the need is; thej^ see boats 
there, but not their own, with no one in them; they get in, 
row away, and perceive that they are heavy as if laden with 
passengers, but they see no one." 

f England long remained the abode of spirits. German 
witches were thought to rendezvous there; and Ireland suc- 
ceeded to England as the Blessed Isle. 

X In German stories, the nightmare says her mother is in 
England, and German mothers still say, referring to the dead, 
"How my children are crying in England." In Armorican 
belief, the dog of the parish priest of Braspar carries souls 
to Great Britain. 

§ Welsh legends tell of the "Green meadows in the 
sea," islands in the" Irish Sea, the abode of souls of Druids, 
and they also call them White Man's Land. Gallic; tradi- 
tions speak of them as the Noble Land. 

Pembrokeshire sailors, in the eighteenth century, told of 
an Island of Green Meadows in the Irish Sea, and they say 
some visited them in the pr-esent century, but when they 
re-embarked, these islands suddenly disappeared. || Fairies 
are said to inhabit them; and Welsh traditions represent 
them as visiting Milford Haven, coming through a tunnel 
under the sea. 

Other Welsh legends are of voyages in search of Blessed 
Isles, by Merlin and by Madoc, the latter reputed to have 
found our own shore-s, in his search. 

Merlin (Merd)'n Ennis) sailed with twelve companions, 
and Gavran sailed westward to find the Gwerddonan Llian 
(Green Islands of the Sea). These islands were fabled the 

• In Fi-aser's Mag., Vol. II,-p. 223. 

+ Wright.— St. Patrick's Purgxitory, pp. 66 and 129. 

*Kuhn. — ^Vestphalische Sagen, p. lot. 

§ Sikes.— Britifih Goblios and Webh FolV-lore, p. 8. 

iSikes.— British Goblins and Weish Folk-lore, p. 9. 


abodes of the Tylwith Tt.^, fair family, the souls of certain 
Druids, who abode in this lower heaven. They were said 
to revisit Wales, and to carry men to their island. These, 
when they returned, thought an absence of ten years but a 
day. These islands could be seen from a turf in St. David's 
churchyard, but they disappeared when sought. One man 
conceived the happy thought of sailing in search of them 
on a sod from the churchyard, and found them. 

* Madoc's voyage has been immortalized by Southey: 

" Themselves, immortal, drink the gales of bliss, 
Which o'er Flalh Innis breathe eternal spring." 

Irish souls crossed Lough Derg, and, in Loch Cre, was 
one island where all lived forever, and another where none 
could live. After Arran was blessed, no corpse could decay. 

The Norse, in the tenth century, called Ireland Hvit- 
manna Land (white man's land). 

The traditional Green Isle, or the Isle of the Dead, lay 
beyond the Isle of Youth, and between Scotland and Ireland 
lay Caire Lewan, another mysterious island. 

f There were numerous Druidical stories of such islands. 
Sir-na-m-Beo, Isle of the Living, and Hy-na-m-Balla, Island 
of Life, were of these, and were traditionally inhabited by 
the Firbolgs. By many, they were said to be inhabited 
by the ghosts of drowned men. 

J The Landnama bok tells us: "Ari was storm-cast on 
the White Man's Land, which some call Great Ireland. 
This lies in the western sea, near Vinland, the good; it is 
called six days' sail west from Ireland." 

^Maildun, a Celtic hero,- also undertook a voyage in 
search of these Blessed Isles. He sailed in a " Coracle," 
large enough to accommodate sixty-four people. He found 
islands of demons and monsters, a Circe, and finally the 
terrestrial paradise. So, in McGee's poem, we read of 
Eman Oge, who also sailed in search of these islands. St. 
Patrick is said to have set a neophyte adrift in a boat, with 
the boat-chain wrapped about him; and he, too, found this 
earthly paradise. 

II But a more widespread tradition was of the voyage of 
St. Brandan, an earlj^ saint. He sailed, with twelve fellow- 

» Southey .—Madoc, XI. 

+ Kennedy.— Fictions of the Irish Celts. 

tin B. Gou'd.— Curious Myths, 550. 

S Silies. — British Goblins, p. 9. 

I Voyage Merveilleux de St. Brandan, Ed. Michel. 


monks, in search of the Isles of the Blessed. He was fabled 
to have found the holy island, inhabited by twenty-four 
monks. Besides, he found an island of birds (fallen angels), 
an island of sheep, and an island inhabited by fiends, who 
attacked him. This is like the Island of Birds and Island 
of Sheep, in the "Arabian Nights." One version of the 
story calls the islands Hy-Breasil. 

* " Seven dayes they sayled awaye in that clere water. 
And thenne there came a southe winde, and drof the shyppe 
northward, wheras they sawe an ylonde full dirke and full 
of stench and smoke; and then they herde grete blowinge 
and blasting of belowes, but they might see noothynge, 
but herde grete thunderynge" . . . "and soone ther 
came a greate nombere of fendes, and assayled them with 
hokes and brennying yron mattys, whiche rannen on the 
water, following theyr shyppe faste in such wyse that it 
seemed all th* see to be in a fyre." He also saw other 
wonderful islands, and met Judas floating on a rock in the 
sea. He sailed east, then north, then west, then east to 
Ireland. Before him, a monk (Meruuke) had found the 
earthly paradise, sailing three days to the eastward, until 
a dark cloud came up; when it cleared, he found an island. 
" In that ylonde was joye and roirthe enough." So St. 
Brandan finally found the Blessed Island, thenceforth to 
bear his name, or that of Hy Brazil {Royal island). 

•(■ " On the ocean that hollows the rocks where ye dwell, 
A shadowy land has appeared, as they tell; 
Men thought it a region of sunshine and rest. 
And they called it O'Brazil, the isle of the blest." 

These islands were long believed to lie west of Ireland, 
or of Spain. In an old chart of 1751, one is put down three 
hundred miles to the westward of Ferrol, in latitude 
twenty-nine degrees. After the discovery of the Canaries 
and Madeiras, these islands were supposed to lie still farther 
to the westward, and the loom of land was thought to have 
been seen, but they would fade as fast as they were neared. 

\K Lisbon pilot of the fifteenth century, storm-beaten, 
was said to have found them, and a noble Spanish lord 
fitted out an expedition to find them. Separated from his 
fleet in a storm, he is said to have been driven to them, and, 

• Wynklln de Worde.— Golden Legend. 

+ Gerald Grlffln.— Hy Brazil. 

J W. Irving.— Chronicles of Woolfert's Roost. 


after a Rip Van Winkle sleep of years, returned to Spain, 
reporting that they were ruled by descendants of Rodrigo, 
the last king of the Goths. * The Portuguese called the isle 
St. Sebastian, and alleged that some Wednesday of holy 
week, a fog would come up, and in it the fleet of that mon- 
arch, bringing him back to his kingdom. 

fCanary islanders thought they saw it, and, on the 
globe of Martin Bdieim, it was figured two hundred leagues 
to the westward of Canary. 

Many other accounts of the island were given by early 
writers. Irving's story, " The Adelantado of Seven Cities," 
is founded on these old traditions. 

It was even mentioned in the treaties between Portugal 
and Spain. The Spanish retained traditions of it in the 
sixteenth century, calling it the island that "quando se busca 
no se halla." An expedition sailed in search of it as late as 

J Irving says it was also called aprositus {inaccessible) 

There are many early accounts of it. William of 
Worcester twice mentions Brasyle. He says his brother 
sailed to it, in 1401, from Bristol, steering due west for 
nine (?) months; but scarcely had he discovered the island, 
when they were driven back by storms. 

§One of the maps contained in the work of an Italian 
geographer of 1605 has Hy Brazil figured in it. 

II A manuscript in Trinity College library, Dublin, dated 
1636, states that "many old mappes lay down O'Brazile in 
longitude 03.00; latitude 50.20." Werdenhagen, an old 
Dutch author, gives a chart, in which an island is figured 
near this spot. . 

Hardiman quotes a letter from a Mr. Hamilton to a 
cousin in London, in which he says he was told by a 
Captain Nisbet that one of his ships had sailed to this 
island, in 16 14. 

** Jeremy Taylor alludes to O'Brazile, or the Inchanted 
Isle, in 1667. 

ff Dr. Guest says a work was published in London, in 
1674, entitled, "The Western Wonder; or, O'Brazile," giv- 

* Brewer.— Reader's Hand Book. 

ilrving. — Voyages of Columbus, Vol. II. note 25. 

tirving.— Chronicles of Wolfert's Koost. 

§G. Bronero Rroneri. — Eel.i^ione Uuiversali. 

IJaa. Hardiman, — Irish Minstrelsy, V, 368. 

** Dissuasion from Popery, 1687. 

tt Notes and Queries, Sept. ®, Doc. If), lfi83. 


ing an accurate description, in the style of DeFoe, of a visit 
to the island. 

* A Mr. Fraser published a paper in 1879, giving an en- 
larged map in which the island is distinctly laid down. It 
is from a work by the Royal Geographer, Tusser, in 1674. 
Fraser thinks the island occupied the spot where Porcupine 
shoal now is, as shells have been found there, requiring 
regular atmospheric exposure to have attained their devel- 

f Hy Breasil appears in a map of Andreas Bianco, and in 
others down to the time of Coronelli. Humboldt says it is 
on an English map, and it is found in an old map of 

The legends concerning Bermuda have been related. 
J An Italian chart of Jacomo di Gaetaldi, in 1550, calls 
Newfoundland " Isola dei Demonii (Isle of Demons), and 
figures demons near it. Thevet says the Indians were tor- 
mented by demons residing there. Champlain tells of a 
diabolic island near Miscou, on the St. Lawrence, where 
lived an ogress, taller than the tallest ships. 

§ Baring Gould says Lambertus Floridus, in a MS. of the 
twelfth century, locates Paradise in the Indian Ocean, and a 
map in Cambridge library figures it at the mouth of the 
Danube, while the Hereford map of the thirteenth century 
also places it near India, but separated it from the conti- 
nent by a wall of brass. 

Even savages have such mysterous isles. Near Raratonga 
Island, in the Her\-e3' group, in an islet reputed the home 
of souls, is " No-land-at-all," and souls embarked from the 
West Cape. 

II A Tongan home of souls was Bolotoo, an island to the 
northwest. Here mortals lived forever, and plants and 
animals were also reproduced. A canoe of warriors once 
reached it, but were instantly bidden to depart. They died 
from the effects of the air of this paradise. Naicobocoo 
was another island paradise, to reach which souls embarked 
from a certain cape. ** Pulola was the Samoan heaven, 
under the sea. 

In Mangaia, the abode of souls was an island to the 

• Notes and Queries, December, 1883. 
+ Yule's Polo II, 316. 

t Le Moine.— Chronicles of the St. Lawrence. 

§ Myths of the Middle A^es. 

I Tyler. — Primitive Culnire II, p. 62. 

"Gill.— Myths and Song^ of the South Pacific, p. 168 


northwest. When bodies were thrown from cliffs into the 
sea, souls found their way to these islands. 

Fijians thought souls went westward. Their Islands of 
the Blessed lay to the northwest, and were named Boluta. 
The crew of a tempest-driven boat are said to have landed 
on it, but never returned. 

They also spoke of a paradise below the sea. When a 
thunder-clap was heard on the distant horizon, they said it 
was a soul descending to this paradise. 

Australians, and other Polynesian tribes believed in Is- 
lands of Souls, generally to the westward, toward the setting 

Nor are our own uncultured races without such tradi- 
tions. The Athabascans believe that their Isles of the 
Blessed lie in Lake Huron; and in "Hiawatha" we find the 
poet saying that Chibiabos went 

" To the islands of the blessed, 
To the lai^d of ghosts and shadows." 

* Algonquins' souls. paddled in a white stone canoe across 
a lake, where storms destroyed wicked souls, to a Blessed 
Island. Ilurons and Sioux believed a river must be crossed, 
and Dacotahs, a crystal lake, while Choctaws, and Massachu- 
setts Indians went west to Kiehtan. 

f The Indians of Lake Superior have a tradition of an 
island with golden sands, about whose shores waves cease- 
lessly beat. Mortals landing on it, never return. 

This island is in Lake Manitobah, where a Manitou, or 
speaking God, is heard at night. 

Chilians and Peruvians believed that the abodes of souls 
lay to the westward. Sacred islands existed in Mexico and 
Guatemala. J To the westward lay Coaibai, the Haytien 
paradise. Brazilian souls went west, and there in ■ the 
ocean lay the paradise of the Aronco Indians, whose Charon 
was Tempalazy, the sailor. 

The Khonds say the Judge of the dead is in a rock be- 
yond the sea. To this " leaping rock " all must jump, across 
the black and muddy stream. 

§ The Okanagans had traditions of a White Man's Island 
(Samahtumiwhoolah), from whence their ancestors came, 

* Tyler.— Primitive Culture, II, p. 62. 
+ Schoolcraft. — Indian Tribes. 
t Tyler.— Primitive Culture. II. p. 62. 
§ Bancroft!— Natives Eaces, III/p. 153. 


having been banished on a floating piece of the island, by 
its ruler, Scomalt, a woman. A southern * California tribe 
also believed in island paradises near Monterey. 

The discoveries of modera navigators have banished all 
thoughts of real islands mysteriously located, and inhabited 
by the souls of men. Since the remotest corners of the 
temperate ocean have been explored, and no terrestrial 
heaven, or earthly purgatory has been found, no shadowy 
lands remain on our charts to vex the night-wearied mar- 
iner, save such spectral rocks as are from time to time 
located in mid-ocean, by some careless skipper. Well may 
we then ask, — 

f "WTiere are they, those green fairy islands, reposing 
In sunlight and beauty, on Ocean's calm breast? 
What spirit, the things that are hidden disclosing. 

Shall point the bright way to their dwellings at rest?" 

J And we may answer these queries by this verse: 

" Here, 'raid the bleak waves of our strife and care. 
Float the green Fortunate Isles, 
Where all the hero-spirits dwell and share 
Our martyrdom and toils." 

* Bancroft.— Native Eaces, HI, p. 525. 
+ Mrs. Hemans' Poems, 
i J. E. Lowell's Poems. 



• 'Tis the Phantom ship, that, in darlcness and wrath. 
Ploughs evermore the waste ocean path, 
And the heart of the mariner trembles in dread. 
When it crosses his vision like a ghost of the dead." 

Ayres. — Legends of Montauk, 

'A ship's unhappy ghost,' she said, 
' The awful ship, the Mystery.' " 

Celia Thaxter, 

HE legend of the Flying Dutch- 
man is the most picturesque 
and romantic of the many talcs 
current among sailors half-a- 
century ago. It is also, per- 
haps, the best-known nautical 
legend. Novelists have used it as 
their theme; poets have embel- 
lished the tale with their verse; 
dramatists have familiarized the 
public with it, and it has been the 
subject of modern opera. The tale 
is told with variations in nearly 
every maritime country, and folk- 
lore tales of wonderful spectral and 
phantom ships are abundant. 
The usually accepted version of the story is 
thus given by M. Jal: * "An unbelieving Dutch 
captain had vainly tried to round Cape Horn against a 
head-gale. He swore he would do it, and, when the gale 
increased, laughed at the fears of his crew, smoked his pipe 
and drank his beer. He threw overboard some of them 
who tried to make him put into port. The Holy Ghost 
descended on the vessel, but he fired his pistol at it, and 
pierced his own hand and paral)'zed his arm. He cursed 
God, and was then condemned by the apparition to navi- 

• Scenes de la Vie Maritime, Vol. It, p. 89. 



gate always without putting into port, only having gall to 
drink and red-hot iron to eat, and eternally to watch. He 
was to be the evil genius of the sea, to torment and punish 
sailors, the sight of his storm-tossed bark to carry presage 
of ill fortune to the luckless beholder. He sends white 
squalls, all disasters, and tempests. Should he visit a ship, 
"wine sours, and all food becomes beans — the sailor's bete 
noir. Should he bring or send letters, none must touch 
them, or they are lost. He changes his mien at will, and is 
seldom seen twice under the same circumstances. His 
crew are all old sinners of the sea, sailor thieves, cowards, 
murderers, and such. They eternally toil and suffer, and 
have little to eat or drink. His ship is the true purgatory 
of the faithless and idle mariner." 

*This is the Phantom Ship, of which Scott sings: 

" Or of that Phantom Ship, whose form 
Shoots like a meteor through the storm; 
When the dark scud comes driving hard. 
And lowered is every topsail yard, 
And canvas, wove in earthly looms, 
No more to brave the storm presumes! 
Then, 'mid the war of sea and sky. 
Top and topgallant hoisted high, 
Full spread and crowded every sail. 
The Demon Frigate braves the gale; 
And well the doom'd spectators know 
The harbinger of wreck and woe." 

As the hero is a Dutchman, we should properlj"" refer to 
Holla'nd for the true version of the tale. 

f Several authorities give this as follows: " Falkenberg 
was a nobleman, who murdered his brother and his bride 
in a fit of passion, and was condemned therefor forever to 
wander toward the north. On arriving at the seashore, he 
found awaiting him a boat, with a man in it, who said, 
' Expectamtis ie.' He entered the boat, attended by his 
good and his evil spirit, and went on board a spectral bark 
in the harbor. There he still lingers, while these spirits 
play dice for his soul. For six hundred years the ship has 
wandered the seas, and mariners still see her in the German 
ocean, sailing northward, without helm or helmsman. She 
is painted gra}', has colored sails, a pale flag, and no crew. 
Flames issucfrom the masthead at night." 

» Eokeby, Canto II, v. 2. 

+ Bechiifcein.— Deutches Sagenbuch. Wolf.— NlederittndlBChe Sagen, No. 130. 
Thorpe.— Northern Mythologr, m, 205. 




Some of the features of this tale seem to be borrowed 
from a Norse tradition, that Stote, a Viking, stole a ring 
from the gods, and when they sought him they found him 
a skeleton, in a robe of fire, seated on the mainmast of a 
black spectral ship, seen in a cavern by the sea. This 
legend is embodied in Bishop Tegner's Fridthjof's Saga. 

* Marryax, facile princeps in matters maritime, has woven 
out of the legend the plot of his phantom ship. The captain 
of the 'ship, Vanderdecken, relates to his wife in Holland 
the cause of his wandering. He had tried for nine weeks to 
weather the stormy cape, but after battling against ad- 
verse winds and currents, and after throwing overboard the 
pilot, who opposed him, he finally swore on a relic of the 
true cross that in spite of wind and weather — storms, seas, 
lightning, etc. — he would beat until the day of judgment, to 
pass the cape. His oath brought upon him the punishment. 
The hero of the tale, his son, finds a letter describing all 
this, after his mother's death, and, in addition, saying that 
a return of the cross-relic on board by a mortal would insure 
the termination of the punishment. To the execution of 
this task, the son, Philip, devotes his life. The phantom 
ship appears in the story many times in the son's search 
after her, and embodies the main points of the legend. One 
says that to meet the phantom ship is worse than to see the 
devil, such ill luck follows thereby. Others, that letters 
must not be taken, or the vessel receiving them will be lost. 
Her first appearance is in a cloud at sunset, surrounded by 
a pale-blue light. It was fine weather, but she was under 
storm-sail, pitching and tumbling about as in a sea. The 
whistles of the mates were heard, and orders from her decks, 
but she soon disappeared iri the gloom and mist. Again she 
was seen in a good breeze, only the loom of her hull appear- 
ing in a fog, but a gun was fired, and voices heard. Again 
she came in a gale, sailing tranquilly with all sail set, and 
still again she sails over the bar and shore, decoying the 
pursuers on shoals, and again in a typhoon, when she ran 
right through the pursuing son's vessel. 

In her last appearance she rises gradually out of the 
water, a true demon-ship, and heaves to, awaiting a message. 
A boat appears, boards the pursuing ship with letters, which 
are thrown cA'erboard. As a result of the machinations of 
Philip's evil spirit, he is set adrift by the superstitious sailors 

* Phantom Ship, PaMm, 

OF THE sea' and OF SAILORS, 347 

of his ship, and finally gains the deck of the phantom ship, 
restores his father the relic, and terminates the wanderings 
of the blaspheming captain. 

* In a poem by Leyden, the ship is thus described. It is 
thought to be a slave-ship attacked ' by the plague, and 
refused a refuge in the various ports, — 

" Repelled from port to port, they sue in vain 
And track with slow, unsteady sail the main. 
Where ne'er the bright and buoyant wave is seen 
To streak with wandering foam the sea-weeds green. 
The Spectre-Ship, in livid glimpsing light. 
Glares baleful on the shuddering watch at night, 
Unblest of God and man! " 

f Brewer says the Phantom ship is called Carmilhan, and 
the goblin Klaboterman sits on the bowsprit smoking his 
pipe. JLongfellow sings of 

A ship of the dead that sails the sea, 

And is called the Carmilhan, 

A ghostly ship, with a ghostly crew. 

In tempests she appears, 

And before the gale or against the gale 

She sails, without a rag of sail. 

Without a helmsman steers. 

And ill betide the luckless ship 
That meets the Carmilhan! 
Over her decks the seas will leap. 
She must go down into the deep. 
And perish, mouse and man." 

§And so sings O'Reilly, — 

" But Heaven help the ship near which the demon sailor steers! 
The doom of those is sealed, to whom the Phantom Ship appears, 
They'll never reach their destin'd port, they'll see their homes no more, 
They who see the Flying Dutchman never, never reach the shore. " 

II Brachvogel has written a tale, " Die Fliegende Hol- 
lander," of the time of the Spanish Armada, In Dietrichson's 
career is reproduced the tale of Vanderdecken. 

** There is another English tale, " The Flying Dutchman," 
in which mutineers seize a man-of-war and rig her to simu- 

* Scenes of Infancy. 

■t Header's Hand-book. 

t Poems. — Tales of a Waj-side Inn. 

§ T. Boyle O'Reilly.— Soruts of Soathem Seas. 

J Die Fliegende HoUiinder. 

•* Monroe's Seaside Library, No. 803. 


late the spectre-ship, by so arranging her sails that they are 
but net works of rope and canvas, while they seem firm and 
substantial. This is done to terrify a pursuing vessel, but 
the real spectre-ship is encountered by her, terrifying the 
mutineers, and furnishing an omen of their final capture and 

* Thomas Gibbons, in an interesting volume recently 
published, gives a poem from some nautical pen recapitulat- 
ing the main events of the usual tale. 

t Cooper says she is said to be a double-decker, and is 
always to windward, sometimes in a fog during clear 
weather, often under all sail in a gale, and even sailing 
among the clouds. 

I H. Fitzball dramatized the story, and it was performed 
many times in New York. The usual story, with slight 
variations, is embodied in the drama. The story has also 
furnished a theme for opera. In Wagner's " Fliegende 
Hollander," a Norwegian brig meets the spectre-ship at sea, 
on his own coast. He is induced, by promises of great 
treasure, to pledge his daughter to the captain of the " Fly- 
ing Dutchman," here nameless. The captain says relating 
his tale, that he must wander seven j^ears without ceasing, 
but may now, a respite being at hand, claim an earthly 

The ships proceed to port, where we find the intended 
bride and her maidens. In a ballad, Senta recalls the Dutch- 
man's fate. 

^ *' There sails a ship o'er stormy main, 

With blackened mast and blood-red sail; 

On deck, and ever suffering pain, 
The captain watches without fail. 

Around a cape he once would sail, 

He strove, and swore 'gainst wind and hail, 

' Forever will I strive to pass.'" 

But he is to be saved if he finds a true maiden. The 
lover appears, and endeavors to dissuade the maiden, in an 
impassioned duet. Finally the maiden hesitates, when the 
captain of the spectre-ship, thinking her faithless, goes to 
sea again, revealing himself thus: 

* BoSiog; the Compass. 

+ ** Red Hover," Cnapter liv. 

t-" 35e Flying Dutcfiman." a Drama. 

t R. VTagner.— Die Fliegende HolMnder. 


" ' Thou know'st me not; thou think'st not what I am; 
Go ask the seas of every zone; 
Go ask the sailor who those seas doth roam; 
He knows this ship, the subject of his tales. 
The Flying Dutchman am I nam'd.'" 

Such are" the rnain features of the story of the Flying 
Dutchman, with its many variants. But there are a host of 
other legends concerning spectral ships, which serve to 
illustrate the ideas of the seafaring man concerning such 

* Danish sailors have a legend of a spectral ship, often 
seen in the Baltic, and believe it is a sign of disaster to meet 
with it. 

A Schleswick-Holstein tale is told of a maiden who was 
carried off by her lover in a spectral ship, as she was sitting 
on the shore bewailing his absence. Fishermen aver they 
see in Katzeburg lake spectral boats and nets, which sud- 
denly disappear when approached. 

f The old Frisians thought the world a great ship 
(" Mannigf ual "), the mountains its masts. The captain 
went about on horseback giving his orders. Sailors going 
aloft when boys came down gray-headed men, and in 
blocks about the rigging were dining-halls, where they 
meanwhile sustained life. This ship was afterward les- 
sened, but still remained gigantic. She stuck in the Straits 
of Dover, but her ingenious captain smeared the port side 
(she was bound north) with soap, apd she scraped through, 
but left the " white cliffs of Albion " as a reminder. Getting 
into the Baltic, that sea proved too narrow, and the huge 
ship was lightened. J The island of Bornholm was formed 
by metal ballast then thrown overboard, and Christianso 
from ashes and rabbish. This ship was known in England 
but a century ago as the "Merry Dun of Dover." §' 

North Frisian mariners still tell of her wonders. She 
scraped off a regiment of soldiers with her head-booms, at 
Dover, while, at the same time, her spanker-boom projected 
over Calais' forts, as she tacked in the Channel. 

11 She is not unknown to the French mariner, as we are 
told of the grand "Chasse Foudre," or "lightning-chaser," 
so large that she is a hundred years in tacking. When she 

* Thorpe.— Northern Mythology.Vol. IT, p. 275. 

•t Thorpe.— Northern Mj-tholoo-y, Til, 38. 

tMuellenho£E.— Sagen aus Sehleswig. 235. 

e Brewer.— Header's Hand-hook. Folk-lore Journal, 1S84, p. 23. 

Ual.— Scenes de la Vie Maritime, 1632, II, p. 89, etc. 


rolls, whales and other large animals are found high and 
dr)' in the channels. The nails of her hull are a pivot for 
the moon. Her signal-halyards are larp^er than our greatest 
hempen cables. It took more than thirty years to dig the 
iron for her hull, and many enormous forges, blown by 
Arctic tempests, to fabricate her plates and frames. Her 
cables are the circumference of St. Peter's dome, and would 
extend around the globe. Her lower masts are so high 
that a boy becomes a white-headed man before he reaches 
the futtock-shrouds. Her mizzen-royal is larger than the 
whole of Europe; twentj'-five thousand men can manoeuvre 
on her main-cap, and the rainbow serves as a streamer. 
There is a tavern in each block, the pipe of the smallest 
boy is as large as a frigate; the quid of a tar wouVd supply 
the crew of a frigate eighteen months in tobacco. Her 
cabin is a true paradise. In one corner is a large patch of 
ground planted with trees and greensward, and elephants, 
tigers, and other huge beasts, abound in it. She is the 
opposite of the spectral ship proper, as her crew are the 
good and deserving men, and their tasks are light and fare 
superb. She has ports, but no guns, for want of material. 
*Gargantua made a ship like this, which it took a whole 
forest to build. 

The Normans believed that if their offerings for souls 
in purgatory were not acceptable, a spectral bark would 
sail in to the wharf, with crews of the souls of those who 
had perished years before at sea. Friends on shore recog- 
nized lost ones, but at midnight the bell would strike, and 
lights and ship disappear as suddenly as they came. 

f Chapus says it is believed that this boat comes on All 
Saints' day. "The watchman of the wharf sees a boat 
come within hail at midnight, and hastens to cast it a line; 
but, at this same momfent, the boat disappears, and fright- 
ful cries are heard, that make the hearer shudder, for they 
are recognized as the voices of sailors shipwrecked that 
year." Hood describes this event in "The Phantom Boat 
of All Souls' Night." 

There are various German traditions of phantom ships. 
JFalkenberg still cruises in the northern ocean, and plaj's 
at dice with the devil for his soul. Murder on the high 
seas is said to have been the cause of his punishment. 

* Sebillot.— Gargantua dans Ti-aditions Populaires, 18, 

+ " Dieppe et Res Environs" (18-"5). 

t Thorpe. —Xorthern itythology. 2-275. 


* Schmidt relates two legends, current among German 
sailors fifty years ago, of spectral barks. 

One of these is of the Death ship, out of whose ports 
grin death's-heads, along with similar forms delineated on 
the sails. On the gallery stands a skeleton with an hour- 
glass in his hand. The crew are the ghosts of condemned 
sinners, who serve one hundred years in each grade, until 
each has a short tour as captain. It is an omen of disaster 
to meet this ghostly bark at sea. A German poet thus 
sings of her: 

f" For the ship was black, her masts were black. 
And her sails coal-black as death, 
And the Evil One steered at the helm, and laughed. 
And mocked at their failing breath." 

J Another account calls this ship the Navire Libera nos, 
which is shrouded in black, and carries a black flag, span- 
gled with silver flames and death's-heads, and having 
inscribed on it ^Libera Nos." The skeleton crew is com- 
manded by Captain Requiem (dirge). They will cruise 
until a Christian crew shall board the vessel and say a mass 
for their souls. 

§A middle-age author says the soul of Ebrouin was 
borne by the devil to hell, down the river Rhone, in a ship, 
whose descent was accompanied with a great noise. 

II "In many localities in Lower Brittany, stories are 
current of a huge ship manned by giant human forms and 
dogs. The men are reprobates guilty of horrible crimes; 
the dogs, demons set to guard them, and inflict on them 
a thousand tortures. These condemned vessels wander 
ceaselessly from sea to sea, without entering port or cast- 
mg anchor, and will do so to the end of the world. No 
vessel should allow them to fall aboard, for its crew would 
suddenly disappear. The orders, in this strange craft, are 
given through huge conch-shells, and, the noise being 
heard several miles, it is easy to avoid her. Besides, there 
is nothing to fear, if the 'Ave Maria' is repeated, and the 
saints appealed to, especially St. Anne D'Auray." 

** Another tale is of a spectral bark often seen at sea, but 
which, on a nearer approach, proves to be a rock. This was 

'Seeman's Sagen und Schiffer MHhrcben. ' 

+ Oscar L. B. IVolff.— "The Phantom Ship." 

t A. Balleydier.— Veilles du Frcsbyt^ie, in M61usine, September, 1884. 

§ Liebrect.— Gervasius von Tilbury I'.O. 

IL. F. Sauve, in Melusine, September, 5884. 

« Schmidt.— iSeeman'E Sageu und Schiffer MHhrchen. 


believed to have been a slave ship, among whose unfort- 
unate crew was a magician, who killed all the negroes and 
jumped overboard, transforming the vessel into a stone. 

There is an account of a phantom ship given in a letter 
in a German periodical.* A lookout sees and reports a 
vessel. When interrogated, he says he saw a frigate in a 
faint cloud of light, with a black captain and a skeleton 
form with a spear in its hand, standing on the poop. Skele- 
ton shapes handled the cobweb sails, and the gossamer 
ropes moved noiselessly. The only word he heard, as the 
mysterious bark glided away, was "water." The history of 
this vessel, as recounted by sailors on board, was as fol- 
lows: A wealthy Peruvian Spaniard, Don Lopez D'Aranda, 
dreamed he saw his son, Don Sandovalle, who had sailed 
with his bride for Spain, on board his ship, with a ghastly 
wound in his head, and pointing to his own form, bound to 
the mainmast of the vessel. Near him was water, just be- 
yond his reach, and the fiendish crew were mocking him 
and refusing him drink. The crew had murdered the young 
couple for their gold, and the curse of the wandering Dutch- 
man had come upon them. They are still seen in the 
neighborhood of the La Plata. 

f Among Swedish sailors, the phantom ship is the Refanu. 
She is so large that it takes three weeks to go from poop to 
prow, and orders are transmitted on horseback. Each top 
is as great as a kingdom, and there is an inn in every block. 

The same tales are told of her tacking in the North Sea 
that were recounted above, of the ''Merry Dun." A Dutch 
brig once sailed into her hawse-holes, and was tossed for 
three days by the waves in the soup-coppers, until it was 
skimmed out one da)', and cast with the scum of the soup 
over the side. Bean Island (.^rtholmarne) was formed by 
one day's skimmings, and Oeland and Gotland from part of 
the cargo of this giant craft. 

\ Equally great is the Irish Roth ramhach (paddle-wheel), 
a ship which, at the end of the world, will go equally on 
sea and land, and which will have a thousand beds, each 
containing a thousand men. 

§ Eugene Sue tells of a great ship, commanded by the 
"Green Pilot," made of iron, which chases a small golden 

*MorgenblHtter, for 1834. 

+ E. Wisrstroem, in Germania, XXVTII.p. ]09. 

tO'Cui-fy.— MS. Materials of Irish History, q. in Melusine, Octotier, 1884. 

% Balamandre, q. by E. KoUand, in Melusine, October, 1884. 


ship, manned by , beautiful women, until a lodestone mount- 
ain attracts and fixes the pursuer. 

* The Coureur Hollandais takes but twelve hours to sail 
around the world. 

f It has even been asserted, in another periodical, that the 
Flying Dutchman was a real person, — Bernard Fokke, whc 
lived in the seventeenth century. He was a reckless and 
daring seaman, who cased his masts with iron, to enable 
him to carry sail. He is said to have sailed to the East 
Indies in ninety days, and to have made many wonderful 
voyages, and hence was thought a sorcerer, in league with 
the devil. In one voyage, he disappeared, having been car- 
ried off by Satan, and is condemned to wander the ocean 
between the southern capes, with no one on board but his 
boatswain, cook and pilot. He is still seen, and always hails 
ships, and asks questions, but they should not be answered 
— and then his ship will disappear. Sometimes a boat is 
seen to approach his bark, but when it reaches her, all 
vanish suddenly 

Various localities on the English coast are haunted bj' 
these phantom appearances. The Cornish coast is particu- 
larly frequented by them. 

A tale of such a vessel has been related in a former 
chapter,J storms and squalls succeeding the phantom. 

§A similar occurrence is described by a narrator in 
Hunt's collection: "Away they pulled, and the boat,^ which 
had been first launched, still kept ahead by dint of mechan- 
ical power and skill. At length, the helmsman cried, 
'Stand by to board her! ' '. . . The •vessel came so close 
to the boat that they could see the men, and the bow- 
oarsman made a grasp at the bulwarks. His hand found' 
nothing solid, and he fell. . . . Ship and light then 
disappeared. The next day, the ' Neptune,' of London, 
Captain R. Grant, was wrecked at G , and all perished." 

II Another Cornish story relates that a phantom ship was 
seen approaching against wind and tide, sailing over land 
and sea in a cloudy squall, and in if departed the soul of a 
wizard wrecker, accompanied by a crash of thunder and 
lightning. His last moments were terrible, a tempest 
taking place in his room, where the plashing of water was 

* A. Bouet.— Pirate et Ctorsaire. 
+ " Ausland," 1841, No. 237. 

* See Chapter VIII. 

§Homances and Drolls of thp West of England. 

I Bottrell.— Traditions and Fireside Stories of West CornwalL 


heard. A similar spectral bark occurs in a story, "The 
White Witch." "These caverns and cleaves were all 
shrouded in mist, which seemed to be gathering from all 
quarters to that place, till it formed a black cloud above 
and a thick haze below, out of which soon appeared the 
black masts of a black ship scudding away to sea, with 
all her sails set, and not a breath of wind stirring." Thun- 
der and lightning followed her, and the ghost of her 
captain was seen standing at the stern, brandishing a 

A story, told at Priest's cove, is much like these. Here 
the pirate lived, and wrecked ships by " hobbling " a horse 
with a light tied to his head, thus decoying them on to the 
rocks. At his death, a cloud came up, with a square-rigged 
ship in it, and the words, " the hour is come, but not the 
man," were heard. As the ship passed over the house, the 
dj'ing man's room was filled with the noise of waves and 
breakers, and the house shook, as the soul of the wrecker 
passed away, borne on the cloud. 

* In Porthcurno harbor, spectral ships are believed to 
appear sailing over land and sea, and their number some- 
times foretells an enemy of equal strength, sometimes 
prognosticates equally numerous wrecks. Another legend 
connects a spectre-ship with the disappearance of a young 
man, who had gone to sea, and returned thence with a 
lawless companion. They were often seen sailing about in 
uncanny gales, and when the returned pirate died, his 
companion is said to have carried his body away in his 
chest. A tempest fame up, and caused the bar in the 
harbor. At certain times, his large boat, in which he had 
been .wont to cruise, would be seen coming in against wind 
and tide, with him, his companion, and dog. A temj>est 
would ensue on every appearance of the spectre-ship. A 
tale of St. Leven, in Cornwall, relates, that a mariner, 
drowned at sea, appeared in a phantom-boat, and carried 
to sea-caverns his waiting sweetheart. 

f In another place on the Cornish coast, not only spectral 
ships, but the noise of falling spars, guns, etc., as in action, 
are heard during an incoming fog. J A spectral ship is still 
seen, at intervals, off the coast, announcing death and 

* Hunt.— Homances and Drolls of the West of England. 

+ Bottrell.— Traditions and Fireside Stories of West Cornwall, 
t Harper's Magazine. 


* A spectral lugger is seen in a pool, on Lizard promon- 
tory, with all sails set. 

An English revenue cutter reported, in 1845, that she 
had seen at sea a spectral boat, rowed by a bearded man, a 
noted wizard of the west of England. 

Near Penrose a spectral boat, laden with smugglers, 
was believed to appear at times on the moor, in an equally 
spectral sea and a driving fog. 

The spectre of a ship, that had sailed from a Devonshire 
port, was one day seen coming in in a cloud, disappearing 
little by little. The real ship soon after came in. 

f In the "Ancient Mariner," the spectre-ship is seen by 
the narrator, after killing the albatross, coming 

" Without a breeze, without a tide, 
She steadies with upright keel. " 

" Those her sails that glance in the sun. 
Like restless gossameres? " 

On board is Death, playing at dice with a woman — Life- 
in-Death — ;for the possession of the mariner's crew. She 
wins, whistles thrice, and 

" Off shoots the spectre-bark.'' 

The mariner's own bark is a spectre-ship, moving with- 
out wind; for 

' ' The loud wind never reached the ship. 
Yet now the ship moved on," 

and the ghosts of the dead crew work the ropes and steer 
her, she sinking on arriving in the home port, and only the 
Ancient Mariner escapes. 

J Cunningham gives us, in his charming story, the legend 
of the haunted ships of the Solway. Two Danish pirates, 
who had permission, for a time, to work deeds of crime on 
the deep, were at last condemned to perish here by wreck, 
and were seen coming in, one clear night, one crowded 
with people, the other having on its deck a spectral shape, 
flitting about. Thus they approached the shore, and four 
young men put off in a boat, that had been sent from one 
ship, to join her, seeking to participate in the revels. When 
they reached her, both vessels sank where they were. 

* Bottrell. — Traditions and Fireside Stories of West Cornwall. 

t Coleridge's Poems. 

JTraditional Tales of the English and Sijoitish Peasantry, p. 338. 


Other wrecks' lay here also, but only these two remain 
unbroken. If boats approach too near, fishermen say they 
will be drawn down to join the reveling crews. One night, 
a man was seen to approach the shore, dig out of the sand 
a brass slipper, and whirl it on the water, when it became a 
boat, in which he went to the wrecks, and, striking them 
with his oar, they rose to the surface, all equipped and sails 
set. Lights were seen, and both vessels stood out of the 
harbor, sailing over Castletown shoals, like true phantom 
barks. On the anniversary of their wreck, they are believed 
to come in again, and the whole scene is re-enacted. Work 
is said to be done on them on dark, stormy nights. 

They are generally seen before a gale. Whoever touches 
these wrecks will be drawn down below to them. Any one 
approaching them as they rise and sail out, is lost. 

* Another spectral vessel appears in the Sol way, always 
coming near a ship that is doomed to wreck, and guided by 
a fiend. It is the ghostly bark of a bridal party, who were 
maliciouslj- wrecked, — " the spectral shallop which always 
sails by the side of the ship which the sea is bound to 

f There is a Highland legend of a great ship (the Rotter- 
dam) that went down with all on board, and that appears 
from time to time, with her ghostly crew, a sure omen of 

A Scotch tale, related in many books of folk-lore, is of 
" Meggie of the Shore," a kind of witch, who saw and 
showed to others a spectral boat with lights in the harbor, 
and that night a boat was lost there. 

There are also tales of spectral ships on this side of the 

Jin an Ojibway tale, a maiden is about to be sacrificed 
to the spirit of the falls, by drifting her over them in a 
canoe. But at the last moment, a spectral canoe, with a 
fairy being in it, takes her place and serves as a sacrifice. 

Whittier, "The Cruise of the Jessie," describes a spectral 
canoe, — 

" While perchance a phantom crew, 
In a ghastly birch canoe. 
Paddled dumb and swiftly after." 

There is a legend of a spectre-ship near Orr's Island, in 

* Cunning-ham, p. 288. 

+ Grepror.— Folklore of Scotland. 
tLanman.— " Haw-hoo-noo." 



Maine, embodied in verse by Whittier, in " The Deadship of 
Harpswell," where 

"The ghost of what was once a ship 
Is sailing up the bay." 

The conclusion to the narrator of this tale by the Book- 
man — 

"Your flying Yankee beats the Dutch" — 

is good. Whittier gives us another American legend in the 
" Palatine," — the spectre of a ship wrecked on Montauk 
Point, which is said to appear on the anniversary of its 
destruction, when 


"Behold! again with shimmer and shine. 
Over the rocks and the seething brine, 
The flaming wreck of the Palatine." 

It is a warning to sailors, too, — 

" And the wise sound-skippers, though skies be fine. 
Reef their sails when they see the sign 
Of the blazing wreck of the Palatine." 


*Th€ Palatine was a Dutch trader wrecked on Block 
Island, about 1752. Wreckers are said to have burned her 
as she drifted to sea, with one woman on board, who had 
refused to leave her. f Livermore gives the testimony of 
several persons who had heard the story from their an- 
cestors, and stoutly maintains that the wreck was not 
plundered. Whittier gives as his authority a Mr. Hazard. 
It was long supposed that Dana's " Buccanneer " also de- 
scribed this deed, but the author says it is a work of the 
imagination. Another authority says the Palatine was not 
wrecked then, but afterward, in 1784. Drake, in his recent 
work,J^ repeats the story of her wreck, a.nd says she was 
burned by the wreckers. 

§ In his poems, Whittier also alludes to 

"The spectre-ship of Salem, with the dead men in her shrouds. 
Sailing sheer above the water, in the loom of morning clouds." 

I In an early and now scarce work, he tells the story of 
another spectral bark of Salem. In the seventeenth century 
i ship about to sail for England had as passengers a strange 
man and a girl of g^-eat beauty. So mysterious were their 
actions, that they were supposed to be demons, and man)' 
feared to sail in the ship. The vessel sailed on Friday, and 
never reached her destination, but reappeared as narrated, 
after a storm that lasted three days: — 

' Near and more near the ship came on, 

With all her broad sails spread. 
The night grew thick, but a phantom light 

Around her path was shed, 
And the gazers shuddered as on she came. 

For against the wind she sped." 

On her deck were seen the spectral forms of the young 
man and woman. This spectral bark disappears at the 
prayer of the minister. 

Whittier gives us another story of a phantom ship, in a 
recent poem.** The young captain of the schooner visits the 
Labrador coast, where, in a secluded bay, live two beautiful 
sisters with their Catholic mother. Both fall in love with 
the handsome skipper, who loves the younger alone. She is 
confined in her room by her mother, just as she is to meet 

* Drake.— T/egends of New England. 

+ Historr of Block Island. 

JLegeods of New England aP83). 

fi Garrison of Cape Ann. 

I Legends of New England. See niso niao^rfood. Vol. V^T , p. <a3. 

•• " The Wreck of the Schooner BTv<eze." 


her lover and fly with him. Her elder sister, profiting by 
her absence, goes in her stead, and is carried to sea in the 
vessel. The disappointed lover, on learning the deception, 
returns at once, but finds his sweetheart dead. The schooner 
never returned home, says the poem, — 

" But even yet, at Seven Isle Bay, 
Is told the ghastly tale 
Of a nreird unspoken sail. 
She flits before no earthly blast, 
With the red sign fluttering from her mast. 
The ghost of the Schooner Breeze." 

* Cotton Mather gives us a legend of a Colonial spectre- 
ship — the New Haven ship. A new ship was sent out from 
New Haven in January, 1647, but was never heard from 
again. In June, about an hour before sunset, and after a 
thunder-storm, a ship like her was seen sailing up the river 
against the wind, disappearing gradually, and finally fading 
out of sight, as she drew near. This vision was declared a 
premonition of the loss of the vessel — even from the pulpit. 
Longfellow has illustrated this tradition: 

f " On she came, with a cloud of canvas. 
Right against the wind that blew, 
Until the eye could distinguish. 
The faces of (he crew." 

"Then fell her straining topmasts 
Hanging tangled in the shrouds, 
And her sails were lowered and lifted. 
And blown away like clouds." 

"And the masts, with all their rigging. 
Fell slowly, one by one, 
And the hulk dilated and vanished. 
As a sea-mist in the sun." 

J Bret Harte relates a legend of a phantom ship, in one 
of his poems. Children go on board a hulk to play, but it 
breaks loose, and drifts out to sea, and is lost. 

" But they tell the tale. 
That when fogs were thick on the harbor reef, 

The mackerel "fishers shorten sail, 

For the signal, they know, will bring relief, 

For the voices of children, still at play. 
In a phantom hulk that drifts away 

Through channels whose waters never fail." 

*Magnalla Christi Americana. 
+ Poems.— The Ship of the Dead, 
i Poems.— A Greyport Le^nd (1797). 


*Celia Thaxter has also published a poem, "The Mys- 
teiy." She is a slaver, whose cargo of two hundred, penned 
below hatches, perish there, and their corpses are thrown 
overboard. The wicked captain tries to regain his port, 
but a calm comes up, and the ghosts of the murdered slaves 
come, and bind the captain to the mast. The crew hastily 
desert the ship. 

"And they were rescued; but the ship — 
The awful ship — the Mystery, 
Her captain in the dead men's grip, 
Never to any port came she. 

" But up and down the roaring seas, 
Forever and for a)'e she sails, 
In calm and storm, against the breeze, 
Unshaken by the wildest gales." 

Roads, in his History of Marblehead, relates tales cur- 
rent of spectre-ships, premonitory warnings of some vessel's 

f In Dana's " Buccaneer," a spectre-ship appears. Lee, 
the pirate, carries a lady to sea, who jumps overboard, and 
her horse is thrown alive after her. On the anniversary of 
this deed, the phantom-ship and horse appear. 

"A ship! and all on fire! hull, yards, and mast. 
Her sails are sheets of flame; she's nearing fast! " 

The third time the vision comes, it sinks, and the horse 
takes its place. 

J Irving tells of a spectral boat, seen in the Hudson. 
"The prevalent opinion connected it with the awful fate of 
Ramhout van Dam, of graceless memory." " He had danced 
and drank until midnight (Saturday), when he entered his 
boat to return home. He was warned that he was on the 
verge of Sunday morning, but he pulled off, nevertheless, 
swearing he would not land until he reached Spiting Devil, 
if it took him a month of Sundays. He was never seen 
afterward, but may be heard, plying his oars, being the 
Flj'ing Dutchman of the Tappan sea, doomed to ply be- 
tween Kakiot and Spiting Devil until the day of judgment." 

§Like the Palatine, is the " Packet Light," in the Gulf of 
St. Lawrence. The packet was wrecked, with loss of life, 

»Our Continent, Apr. 5, 18S2. 

+ Poems of R. H. Dana. 

t Chronicles of Wolfert's Eoost, Chap. 2. 

eCapt. Hall.— Adrift in the Ice Fields. 


near Prince Edward's Island. When a storm is threatened 
from that quarter, a ball of fire emerges from the sea, rises, 
sways about and expands, becoming a burning vessel, then 
sinks and disappears. 

" The lumbermen of the St. John tell with bated breath of 
an antique French caravel, which sails up the Cadelia falls, 
where no steamer or sail-vessel dare follow. And the farm- 
ers and fishermen of Chester Bay still see the weird, un- 
earthly beam which marks the spot where the privateer 
Leach, chased by an overwhelming English force, was 
hurled heavenward by the desperate act of one of her own 

* A Phantom ship is seen at; times at Cap d'Espoir, in 
Gaspe Bay, Gulf of St. Lawrence. Lights are seen on it, 
and it is crowded with soldiers. On the bowsprit stands an 
officer, pointing shoreward with one hand, with a female on 
the other arm. Suddenly the lights go out, a scream is 
heard, and the ship sinks. It is said to be the ghost of the 
flagship of a fleet sent to reduce the French forts by Queen 
Anne — which fleet was wrecked here, and all in it lost. 

f Moore wrote a poem describing a spectre-ship seen at 
times in the vicinity of Deadman's Island, where wrecks 
were once common: — 

"To Deadman's Isle, on the eye of the blast. 
To Deadman's Isle, she speeds her fast, 
By skeleton shapes, her sails are furled, 
And the hand that steers is not of this world." 

J A Chinese form of the story is told by Dennys. A party 
of tiger-hunters found a horned serpent in a tiger's cage 
near Foochow. They shipped it to Canton, but during the 
voyage, lightning struck the cage and split it, the serpent 
escaping. As he rapidly consumed the cargo of rice, the 
master offered a thousand dollars to any one who would 
kill the monster; but two sailors attempting the task were 
killed by the serpent's noxious breath, and, finally, the 
junk was abandoned. It is still believed to cruise about the 
coast, and knowing natives will not board a derelict junk. 

§ Ibu Batuta tells of a " Ship full of Lanterns," which 
appears near the Maldive Islands. It was formerly a demon, 
to whom a virgin was sacrificed, but who has no power at 

* Le Moine. — Chronicles of the St. Lawrence, p. 36. 
+ T. Moore.— Phantom Ship of Deadman's Isle. 

i Folk-lore of China. 
i Voyages, 126, ch. XIX. 



present. He says he saw the ship, and that people drove 
it away by chanting the Koran and beating gongs. 

We may even find earlier traditions of spectral ships. 

* We first find a fully-developed legend of phantom-barks 
in the Sagas. A certain Geirood sets adrift a boat, after he 
lands, with the words, " Go hence, in the power of the evil 
spirits"; and thus the spectral ship has since cruised. 

f During the plague in Europe, in Justinian's time, people 
said that spectral brazen barks, with black and headless men 
as crews, were seen off infected ports, and this is the first 
appearance of the phantom-ship. 

J There is an old Venetian legend, of 1339, of the ring 
with which the Adriatic was first wedded, that alludes to a 
spectral ship. During a storm, a fisherman was required to 
row three men, first to certain churches, then out to the en- 
trance of the port. There a huge Saracen galley was seen 
steering in, in the storm, with frightful demons on board. 
These three caused the spectral craft to sink, thus saving 
the city. On leaving the boat, a ring was given to the boat- 
man, and by it these men were ascertained to be St. Mark, 
St. George and St. Nicholas. In the Venetian Academy is 
a painting, by Giorgione, of this spectral ship, with a demon 
crew, who, in terror of the Saints, jump overboard, or cling 
affrighted to the rigging, while masts flame w-ith fire and 
cast a lurid glare on the water. 

Such are the manj' legends current among sailors and 
seafaring folk, of phantom ships, spectral boats, and finally 
of the Flying Dutchman. Spectres, apparitions and ghosts, 
as we have seen, are as abundant at sea as on land, and it 
requires no greater effort of the imagination to see a ghostly 
ship than to see a ghostly shipman. Many would and have 
argued, in fact, that the spectral bark exists onl)' in the im- 
agination of the sailor, created as a natural accompaniment 
to those weird lights, often seen before a storm. It is true 
in one sense that these ghostl}' barks are none other than 
the nautical manifestations of the same restless spirit that 
wanders on shore as the wild huntsman, the headless horse- 
man, or the ghostly night-walker. A curse is, in these cases, 
supposed to be pronounced on the restless spirit, and so 
here, one of the first alleged causes of the curse upon the 
ceaseless wandering spectral ship is murder and piracy at 

* Grimnismal.— Thorpe, 1-18. 

+ G. S. Assemani.— Blbliot. Orientalis, II, 86. 

tSanuti.— Vita del Duci Veneti, q. by Mre. Jameson, Baored and JjegeaiaTj 


sea, and the whole story is the type of that of the Wander- 
ing Jew on land. 

* " The curse of a deathless life has been passed on the 
Wild Huntsman, because he desired to chase the red deer 
forevermore; on the Captain of the Phantom Ship, because 
he vowed he would double the cape, whether God willed it 
or not; on the Man in the Moon, because he gathered sticks 
during the Sabbath "; etc. 

So of the Wandering Jew, whose prototype at sea is Falk- 
enberg. | As Conway shows, there is a great class of such 
wanderers in legend. Undying ones have been reported 
in all lands. Arthur, Charlemagne, Tell, Boabdil, Sebas- 
tian, Olger the Dane, and others, will readily be recalled 
by students of folk-lore. The myths of these wanderers 
work the one into the other, forming a network of legends. 
Cain is a wanderer in many eastern lands, and Cain is the 
Man in the Moon in other legends. Cain's wind is the hot 
Khamseen in Bedouin tongue, and the Wandering Jew 
passes in the Wild Hunt, in Picardy. Odin is a famous 
leader of the Wild Hunt, and Odin became Nick.J " Nikke 
was a Wild Huntsman of the Sea, and has left many legends, 
of which the Flying Dutchman is one." Another wanderer 
is Judas, and he, too, is a wanderer on the sea. St. Brandan 
saw him on a rock in the sea, during his voyage. §A1 
Simeri, maker of the Golden Calf, was banished to an 
island in the sea; in another is Arthur. If the spectral 
ship comes in storms so in whirlwinds is Elias, an eastern 
wanderer, and in storms the Wild Huntsman. Attendant 
on the Phantom Ship is often seen the phantom light, and 
the Will-o'-the-Wisp is called the Wandering Jew. The 
appearance of the Phantom Ship in a calm is a bad omen. 
I So the sound of the Wild Huntsman's hounds are thought^ 
to be evil portents, and the " Seven Whistlers," also called 
"Wandering Jews," prognosticate storms by their whistling 
cries. These analogies are sufficient to show to what class 
the legend under consideration must be referred, and what 
an element in its formation these widespread ideas con- 
cerning a deathless punishment have been. 

The ship was well chosen as the theme of these ghostly 
manifestations. Around it cluster many maritime legends, 

* Baring-Gould.— Myths of the Middle Ages, p. 29. 
+ Legend of the Wandering Jew, Chapter VII. 
t Conway. — Demonology and Devil-lore, II, 113. 
§ Sales. — Koran. 
I See Chapter IIL 


and it is often the subject of mythological and legendary 
traditions. As we saw in the last chapter, it was the 
chosen carrier of souls — the bark that wafted the immortal 
part across the water of death. 

Many of these, and other mysterious barks of story and 
of legend, move of their own will, without sails or oars, 
often, as the Phantom Ship, against wind and tide, fre- 
quently obeying some charm, or some well-known voice. 
There is nothing strange in this, since the sailor has ever 
accredited intelligence and life to his ship. " She walks the 
waters — a thing of life" to him, and is not "a painted ship 
upon a painted ocean." He refuses a neuter name, and his 
vessel is " she "; or, when a fierce fighting vessel, a " man-of- 
war." These ideas are illustrated by numerous folk-lore 
legends, showing that the sailor is not alone in his ideas 
concerning the ship. Self-moving ships frequently occur in 
midcie-age legends; and such, generally, are the death- 
barks spcfken of above. 

* So, priestly legends represent St. Mary and St. Mark as 
coming to Marseilles in a drifting, self-impelled ship; and, 
in Spanish sacred legend, f the body of St. James the 
Greater is said to have been conveyed in such a mystical 
ship; and a vessel is represented, with an angel at the 
helm, in a cathedral in Spain dedicated to him; and the 
legends of the foundation of Westminster Abbey relate 
that when St. Peter entered a fisherman's boat, to cross the 
Thames,! — 

"As when a weed 
Drifts with the tide, so sbftly o'er the lane, 
Oarless, the boat advanced." 

Rinaldo, in middle-age legend, is given a ship by a con- 
jurer, that moves of itself to the island-paradise. 

§We are told of three mysterious boats that entered the 
harbors of Rue, Dorn and Lucca (?), having borne from 
the Holy Land three sacred crosses. 

Twardowski, a physician of Cracow, was believed to sail 
in the Vistula in a boat without oars or sails; |and ships 
in Russian tales move of their own accord. 

**A fakir gives a prince a paper boat, in one of Miss 
Stokes' Hindoo tales, which also moves of its own volition; 

* Collin de Plancy. — L^endes Pferuses du Moyen Age. 
+ Brewer.— Header's Hand-book, f r. EspafLa Sagrada. 

t Jones,— Credulities. 

S Marquis de Paulny.— Legends of Picardy. 
iAfanaiieff . in Ralston, Russian Folrt-lore, 123. 
** Stokes.— Hindoo FaiiT Tales. 187. 


and river-nymphs gave a certain Chinaman a wonderful 
boat, *" No sails or oars are used, but the boat sped along 
of itself." 

Boats and ships that obeyed the voice of their master, 
or which went only at the sound of certain words, are also 
numerous. Such a boat, which requires a charm-word to 
make it move, occurs in " Quaddarmi and His Sister," a 
Sicilian tale. 

f A Hindoo tale is told of a boat made of hajolwood, 
which goes with three snaps of the finger, and the words 

" Boat of Hajol 
Oars of Mompaban 
Take me to — ^ — ." 

J In a Russian story, a boat moves only at the words 

"Canoe, canoe, float a little farther." 


"Canoe, canoe, float to the water side," 

and an elf-queen at Leije, in Holland, had a fairy ship, 
which moved when she said, 

" Wind with four," 

§The boat of " Big Bird Dan," in the Norse story, sailed 
at the words " Boat, boat, go on," or " Boat, boat, go back 

Such a boat was the magic canoe of the Indian hero, 
moving only at the words " N'chimaun Poll," according to 
Ojibwayll legend, or " Manjau7i Chemaun" in Saginaw 
story. This hero was Manabozho,** or Hiawatha; — ff 

" Paddles none had Hiawatha, 
Paddles none he had or needed, 
For his thoughts as paddles served him 
And his wishes served to guide him." 

A famous boat in Greenland JJ fable rises into the .air, or 
moves on the water, controlled by a magic lay sung by its 
possessor, but if this is forgotten while the boat is in the 
air, it tumbles to the ground and is no longer useful. 

» Giles. — Tales by Sune Ping Ling. 

+ Lai Behair Day.— Folk-lore of Bengal, p. 68. 

t Balston. — Kussian Folk-lore, p. 163. 

8 Dasent.— Tales from the Norse. 

I Schoolcraft.— Algic Researches, Vol. II, p. 94. 

« Schoolcraft.— Indian Tales, Vol. I, p. 33t 

t+ Longfellow.— Hiawatha, Vol.~VII. 

a Bink.— Tales and Traditions of the Esquimaux. 


According to Arthurian legend, Pridwen, his ship and 
his shield, obeyed his voice. 

Many of these barks possessed the power, according to 
legend, of sailing over sea and land. 

* In two Breton tales, Peau D'Anette and Jean del Ours, 
such mysterious barks occur, and 'in an Italian story, St. 
Joseph aids a young man to make such a boat. 

Further intelligence is also accorded to these boats and 
ships of legend and story. Many speak, others I'efuse to 
move when certain things are forgotten, and various acts of 
intelligence are otherwise recorded of them. 

Ellide, a famous Icelandic ship, was of these. She was 
shaped like a golden-headed dragon, with silver tail and 
blue-and-gold belly. Her planks magically grew together, 
and were probably of ash, sacred to Ran, the amphitrite of 
the North. She had black sails, bordered with red, and 
flew fast over the seas. She was sent as a present by ./Egir, 
a marine deity who had been picked up at sea. So 

" Ellide, his dragon-ship, pulled impatient at her cable, 
And spread her wings, ail eager for the sea." 

Fridthjof sailed in her to the northward, when he was 
attacked by two demon spirits, described elsewhere. He 
appeals to Ellide, — 

f " Hearken to my calling. 

If thou'rt Heaven's daughter, 
Let thy keel of copper 
Sting this magic whale!" 

She hears and heeds, — 

" Heed Ellide giveth 
To her lord's behest, 
With a bound she cleaveth 
Deep the monster's breast." 

Lemmiakainen,! a Finnish hero, created a boat out of an 
old distaff and spindle, which would, at his command, fly 
over the sea. It laments and weeps because it is con- 
structed for no useful purpose, and is therefore emploj'ed 
in useful deeds bj' Walnamoinen. 

§ In the Italian stories, " Pot of Rue " and " Ceneterola," 

* Sebillot^ — Litterature Orale de Haute Bretagne. 
+ Taylor.— Tegner's Fridthjof Saga. 

t Le Due— Kale vala. 

I Busk, H,' H.— Folk-lore of Home. 


ships refuse to move: in the former, because a rose is for- 
gotten; a bird, in the latter tale. 

* The same is alleged of boats in Hindoo tales. 

As to speaking ships, an ancient example is furnished in 
the Argo, which was built by Argus, son of Phryxus, an 
ancient navigator on the golden-fleeced ram. In its prow 
was inserted a piece of the speaking oak of Dodona, long an 
oracle in northern Greece, by Athena, a daughter of the sea, 
and rep>uted inventor of navigation. Of her we are told, — 

f "Sudden the vessel as she sail'd along, 

Spoke! wondrous portent, as with human tongue. 

Her steady keel of Dodonian oak, 

By Pallas vocal made, prophetic spoke." 

According to the Floamana saga, the ships Stajakan- 
hofthi and Hunagantur, possessed hurnan speech. | Green- 
land tales are told of speaking ships in a lake in the under 

§ Arnanson reports an Icelandic tradition of the " Skipa- 
mal," or speaking ships. Vessels are said to creak even, in 
stil! water, and when on the ways, in ship houses. This is 
called the speech of the ships, and but few are given to 
understand it. But such a favored one heard the following 
conversation one evening, between two ships lying in the 
harbor. The first one said, " We have long been together, 
but to-morrow we must part." The second one said: "That 
will never be. Thirty years have we been together, and 
grown old together, but when one is worn out, the other 
must lay by." The first: "That will not really be, for al- 
though it is good weather this evening, to-morrow morn- 
ing will it be bad, and no one will go to sea but thy cap- 
tain, while I and all other ships must remain. But you 
will sail out and never come back, and our companionship 
is at an end." " Never, for I will not stir from this place." 
" But you must, and this is the last night of our compan- 
ionship." " When you go not, I will not go, the Devil him- 
self must take a hand in it else." The tale goes that the 
captain of the second ship tried to go, but his ship would 
not sail, and his crew rebelled. He shipped another, but 
they could do no better. He called on Christ's name with 

* Miss Stokes.— Hindoo Fairy Tales, and L. Behair Day, Folk-lore of Bengal. 
i Ap. Khodlus.— Argonautics. Fawkes' Trans. II, 670. , 
t Eink.— Traditions of Greenland Esquimaux. IV, 694. 
i Icelandic I.egeuds. 


no success, then on the Devil's, when his vessel flew before 
the raging storm, was lost, and thus the prediction of the 
wiser ship realized.* 

A writer in the "Spectator," of 1852, says: "Ships no 
longer sea-worthy, when about to break up, between the 
strains of wind and wave, have been known to give forth 
moaning sounds like wailing; the sailor cannot conjecture 
how the noise is made, or the exact spot whence it proceeds, 
but he knows too well its import, and his heart fails him." 
f Cooper makes Fid say, " A ship which is about to sink 
makes her lamentations just like any other human being." 

J Sailors always personify ships and boats, and this was 
carried so far by a certain Cochin Chinese magnate as to 
put his boats in the stocks when they did not sail well. 

Southey says, " Our own sailors sometimes ascribe, con- 
sciousness and sympathy to the ship." He tells of a Captain 
Adkins, who thought his ship would sail faster after a 
French ship than after any other, and who would talk to 
her, urging her to greater speed, by promising her a new 
coat of paint. ^ 

A venerable commodore in our own navy, still living (in 
1881), was won't to talk to the mizzenmast of his ship, 
asking it what sail to carry, when to reduce it, etc. 

This is a common idea among old sailors, who often be- 
lieve, as the old captain said, " She can do anything but 
talk," and sometimes, as we have seen, she can even do that. 

These mysterious ships of legendary tales are wonderful 
in many other respects. They are not made of ordinary 
materials. Such was the famous Norse ship Skidbladnir, 
§ large enough to contain all the gods and their war-equip- 
ment, but folding up like a cloth. It belonged to Frey, 
and always had a fair wind. Gangler says to Har: " You 
have told me of a vessel called Skidbladnir, that was the 
best of all ships. || "Without doubt, it is the best and most 
artfully constructed of any. They were dwarfs who built 
Skidbladnir, and made it a present to Fre)'. It is so large 
that all the gods, completely armed, may sit in it at their 
ease. As soon as ever its sails are unfurled, a favorable gale 
arises, and carries it of itself to whatever place it is destined. 
And when the gods have no mind to sail, they can take it to 

* See also Powell and Magnussen, Icelandic Folk-lore, 1866. 

+ Red Eorer, Chapter XXIV. 

tBastieD. — Oestlicli Asien, 157. 

§ Thorpe.— Northern Mythology, Vol. I, pp. 38, 199. 

H Snorre Edda, p. 43. Mallet's Trans. 


pieces so small, that, being folded upon one another, the 
whole will go into a pocket." 

* Folk-lore tales preserve a reminiscence of this ship. A 
dwarf gives such a one to Hans, which grows and dimin- 
ishes at the words "grow ship," and "lessen ship." f An 
old witch gives Lillekort a similar vessel, which will fly over 
land and sea, and which expands upon setting foot on her 
decks. In " Shortshanks," a similar vessel appears, able to 
carry .five hundred men, and which dives and rises to the 
surface at will. 

J Curiously enough, we find the Algonquin hero Gloos- 
cap possessed of such an expanding vessel, which he con- 
structs out of Granite Island. § But larger than " Skid- 
bladnir " was " Naglfar," belonging to Muspelheim, made 
of dead men's nails, and carrying souls at the end of the 
world, Rymer her pilot; and when one dies with uncut nails, 
the Sagas say he aids in the repairs of this huge ship. 

II At the end of the world, says the prose Edda, " The ship 
Naglefara is set afloat. This vessel is constructed of the nails 
of dead men, for which reason great care should be taken 
not to die with unpared nails; for he who dies so, supplies 
material toward the building of that vessel, which gods and 
men will wish were finished as late as possible." 

The Voluspa Saga also tells us at the last day, 

" The ship of Nails is loosened. 
It floats from the East." 

** This strange vessel is also preserved in modern beliefs. 
Arnanson tells us that there is still a belief in Iceland, that, 
in removing the nails, you should cut them in two or more 
pieces, or Satan will use them to make a Ship-of-the- 

Near Jokul, a strange crew left the harbor in a strange 
vessel, pursued by an Icelandic ship. Just as the latter was 
nearing the strange craft, she sank with all on board. Her 
pursuers reported that she was made of men's nails, fastened 

* Powell and Ma^nussen.— Icelandic legends, 1866. 
tDasent. — Tales from the Norse. 

t Leland.— Algonquin Folk-lore, 1884. 

6 Thorpe.— Northern Mythology, Vol. I, pp. 19 and 80. 

ISnorre Edda, 89. 

** Arnanson.— Icelandic Legends. 


Glass is also reported as a ship-building material. Mer- 
dyn Ennis sailed westward in a ship of glass (Ty Gwidwin). 
*Southey says: 

" In his crystal ark. 
Whither sailed Merlin with his band of bards. 
Old Merlin, master of the mystic lore." 

Arthur was conveyed to Avalon, says one legend, in a 
glass ship, and the Welsh Noah, Hu, was fabled to have 
journeyed in a similar vessel. 

We also read of stone vessels, f Greenland tales are 
told of elves journeying in a stone canoe, and a giant comes 
in a stone canoe, in an Icelandic tale. A block of stone, on 
Upalo island, in the Hervey group, is still pointed out as a 
great ancestral canoe. 

A sacred stone galley or boat is found in 'China, and I 
have a photograph of this, which is supposed to have been 
connected with some religious worship formerly.^ 

§The trunk of a tree often sufficed. A somewhat cele- 
brated boat thus constructed was " Guingelot," which 
Chaucer says was that of Wade, made for him by his sire, 
Wayland the smith. Chaucer says old women "Connen so 
moche craft in Wade's bote," here probably in an obscene 
sense. It was made from the trunk of a tree, with a glass 
window in front. 

More wonderful metal ships and boats are frequently 
described. || Wainamoinen, the Finnish hero, makes one of 
brass, with an iron bottom, and in it makes his apotheosis: 

** " In his shining ship of copper, 
In his galley made of metal, 
Sought the higher earthly region, 
And the lower realms of heaven." 

In a Samoyed tale, a magic boat is made of copper, and 
goes at command of her captain. 

In a Greek folk-tale, a king has a gold ship, with a crew 
of forty maidens. In a Welsh tale, it is a golden boat, with 
golden oars; in a Russian tale, a golden boat, with silver 

More unsuitable materials than these were sometimes 
used. A ship of ivory and ebony, encased in plates of gold, 

» " Madoc." 

+ Rink. — Tales and Traditions of the Esquimaux. 

$See also Scott. — Marmion, II. 14. 

S Thorpe.— Voluspa Saga, in Northern Mj'thologry, Vol. I, p. 88. 

BCastren. — Finnisri Mythology. 

**" Kalevala," — Schiefner's Translation. 



and with oars of sandal and aloes wood, appears in the 
Arabian tale, "The King and His Son." In a Danish tale, 
" Mons Fro," a youth has a mahogany ship. 

* A great chief in a savage land builds a canoe of bark, 
hollowed out by birds,' sewed with the aid of the claws of 
others, through holes punched by the long beaks of others, 
and launched by birds also. In this he voyages, and, after 
many adventures, discovers, and settles the Hervey islands. 

A Guaraco legend of Guiana, relates that the first navi- 
gator formed a ship of wax, and sailed in it. f Queatzal- 


coatl, a Mexican demigod, had a magic boat made of 
serpent-skins. Jin Algic legend, there is a boat of a sor- 
cerer, whose ribs are formed of living rattlesnakes. 

Kircher says Cosmiel gave to Theodactus, a boat of 
asbestos, in which he sailed to heaven. 

So Moore sings, — 

" Oh! for the boat the angel gave 

To him, who, in his heavenward flight, 
Sail'd o'er the sun's ethereal wave. 
To planet isles of odorous light." 

♦Gill.— Myths and Songs of the South Paoiflc, 144. 

+ Bancroft.— Native Eaces, 111-249. 

j Schoolcraft.— Alglo Besearches, Vol. II, p. 73. 


Paper boats figure in Miss Stokes' Hindoo tales, fore- 
shadowing modern inventions. 

In a French anonymous fairy-story, the fairies make a 
giant ship of light buoyant woods. It is covered over with 
peacock-feathers, so that the plumes serve as sails, and such 
feathers line its walls and render it invisible. 

* Grimm, quoting an old writer, tells of a boat made of 
feathers and straw, which was launched in the air from a 

Boats and ships are likewise, in folk-legend, created 
mysteriously out of strange materials. 

Leaves are thus transformed, to convey the soldiers of 
Preeter John to Charlemagne, by the warrior Arnolfo; 

f " Soon as the waves the scatter'd leaves receiv'd 
They swell'd in bulk, and (miracle to viewl) 
Each long, and large, and curv'd, and heavy grew; 
The fibres small to cables chang'd appear'd; 
The larger veins in solid masts were rear'd; 
One end the prow, and one the steerage show'd, 
Till each a perfect ship the billows rode." 

Rods or chips served the same purpose. A magician in 
one of Campbell's Highland tales creates a ship out of a 
rod thrown into the sea; and two hazel wands become a 
boat, in one of Kennedy's Irish stories. J Sir Francis Drake 
is said to have thrown blocks into the water, and thus 
created a fleet to oppose the Armada. § In a Shetland tale, 
a Finn escapes with a captured bride, from his pursuers, by 
cutting off chips and throwing them in the water, thus 
creating a fleet, and puzzling them. 

II Dryden says of Oberon, — 

"What was his club, he made his boat. 
And on his oaken club doth float 
As safe as in a wherry." 

** On the Cornish coast, the Fraddam witch is still seen 
floating along the coast in a tub formerly used by her in 
her incantations, with a broom for her oar, and a crock at- 
tending her larger bark, as a tender. The hapless mariner 
who sees her will be drowned before many days. 

•Teutonic Mythology. 

+ Hoole.— Ariosto, Bk. XXXIX, 210. 

$Mr8. Bray. — Legends of Devonshire. 

S Blind, in Contemporary Review, Augiast, 1882. 

I Nymphldia, 

»*Bot£reU.— Tradition^, etc., of West Cornwall. 


Witches have been famous navigators, both of the air 
and the watery element. Sometimes they sailed in sieves, 
as in Macbeth.* 

"But in a sieve I'll thither sail." 

Swift, and other old authors alluded to this belief, 
f Montgomery says, 

" To sail sure in a seiffe." 

And Congreve:J 

" They say a witch will sail in a sieve." 

The sieve in folk-lore is a cloud, and witches ride it on 
the watery element, as well as in the air. The same cloud 
sieve was a sacred instrument formerly, and the test of the 
vestal virgin's purity, and hence it became a mystical bark, 
like other cloud-barks of story. 

Egg-shells were also chosen by witches as instruments of 
navigation. § An old English writer here tells us, — 

" This witches 
Possess'd; even in their death, deluded, say 
They have been wolves and dogs, and sail'd in egg shells 
Over the sea." 

And Another, — 

[ ' ' The devil should think of purchasing that egg-shell 
To victual out a witch for the Bermoothes." 

**We are told in an old work: "It is a common notion 
that a witch can make a voyage to the East Indies in an 
egg-shell, or take a journey of two or three hundred miles 
across the country on a broomstick." 

ff Reginald Scot also informs us: "They can go out at 
auger holes, and saile in an egge shell, a cockle or muscle 
shell, through and under the tempestuous waves." 

JJAnd T. Fielding: "Most persons break the shells of 
eggs after they have eaten the meat; it is done to prevent 
their being used as boats by witches." 

This is still believed in some parts of Europe. §§ In Hol- 

• Act I^Soene 3. 

+ The Witch. 

t Love for Love. 

§ Cotgrave.— English Treasury of Wit and Language, p. 298. 

I Beaumont and Fletcher. — Women Pleased. 

**The Connoisseur.— No. 100. In Brand's Popular Antiquities, Vol. m, p. 7. 

■HDiseovery of Witchcraft. 

tt Proverbs. 

a Choice "Notes, p. 7. 


Icind, when eggs are eaten, the shells must be broken, for 
this reason. * In Russia, the same is said, and in Portugal 
also; while in Somerset, f England, "If you don't poke a 
hole in an egg-shell, the fairies will put to sea to wreck 

In an Italian tale, a cask in which a princess is inclosed 
becomes first a ship, and then a palace. 

I In a Chinese tale, a boat is created out of a hairpin, by 
a sea-fairy, and a Scotch witch was, for the same purpose, a 
cast-off slipper. A fox, in one tale, becomes a boat, a 
barque and a ship, and a Wallachian magician transformed 
himself into a boat.§ 

These legends are surpassed by others of wonderful 
magic, mystical and mysterious vessels, which illustrate in a 
remarkable manner the tendency to ascribe to the ship 
mysterious qualities. 

P Sir Tristram is challenged to play chess on board of a 
ship by her captain. While thus engaged he is kidnapped, 
and sail made; but contrary winds arise, sails split, and oars 
break, until the knight is put on shore. In the legends of 
the " Round Table," Sir Tristram is set afloat in a ship, with 
a servant only as companion — Gouvernayl (Rudder) — cer- 
tainly a trusty one. Mysterious vessels are connected with 
the heroes of middle-age legend. Arthur, Tristan, Parsifal, 
Gudrun, Horant, Orendel, and other lesser known heroes, 
have these magic vessels. 

Ursula and her eleven thousand virgins had a fleet of 
eleven triremes, gorgeously equipped. In some representa- 
tions of this mystical voyage, angels are depicted at the 

**Ursula is Horsel, the Moon-goddess, and we may believe, 
with Fiskef f and others that we have here the moon and her 
accompanying stars, journeying from England, the home of 
souls, to Germany, and suffering martyrdom at the coming 
of the lord of day. 

In Spenser's " Faerie Queene," Phaedra has a magic 
gondola on an enchanted lake, in which she carries the 
hero of the song. In the mediaeval legend of St. Hippolite, 
he is drawn by horses across the water in a magic boat. 

* Ralston.— Songs of the Russian People. 

+ Cboice Notes, p. 33S. 

JQiles.— Chinese Tales, by Ping Sung Ling. 

I Ralston.— Russian Folk-Tales. 169. 

1 Cox and Jones.— Legenils and Romances of the Middle Ages. 1. 123. 

*• Grimm.— Teutonic M j-thology. 

tt Myths and Myth-Makere. 


Folk-lore tales abound with these curious boats and 
ships, and even the Japanese, New Zealanders, and Fijians 
have their legends concerning them. *The former people 
saj- that on New Year's day, Takarai-bune, the treasure-ship, 
manned by the seven gods of luck, will enter every harbor, 
dispensing, gifts and favors. 

We see thus a universal tendency, in certain ages and 
among certain peoples, to make the ship the subject of 
marvelous tales and of curious transformations. Even in 
the times of Virgil and Ovid, this tendency appeared, f The 
ships of .(Eneas are turned to sea-nymphs: 

" Now, wondrous! as they beat the foaming flood. 
The timber softens into flesh and blood; 
The yards and oars now arms and legs design; 
A trunk, the hull; the slender keel, a spine; 
The prow, a female face; and by degrees, 
The galleys rise — green daughters of the .seas." 

The sailor is responsible for few of these ships. They 
are fireside inventions, tales of wandering minstrels, myths 
of the common people, or fancies of the poets. 

Along with this mystical character, ascribed to the ship 
in legend and in song, was the equally rnysterious awe with 
which the ocean was regarded. This has been abundantly 
shown in the preceding pages, and needs no further exqpi- 

With such an element of mystery in the ship, and con- 
cerning the sea, they woujd well be chosen as the theater 
of such a supernatural occurrence as that imagined in the 
legend of the Flying Dutchman. As we have shown, the 
parallel legend of the Wandering Jew is reproduced in that 
of the Spectral Ship. The features of the legend prove 
this. Whether the curse is for blasphemy, for murder, 
piracy, or slave-dealing, it is all the same — there is a sin to 
be expiated. The propitiation may be a maiden for a wife, 
a return of a relic of the cross, or there may be none. So 
the Jew wanders, without relief. The ship is diabolic — that 
is, a sight of her brings storms and disaster. The Jew 
brought storms, as we have seen, in 1604; and, perhaps, in 
his name, as the Wild Huntsman, we have the key to the 
application of his story to the storm-bound Falkenberg. 
All ghostly appearances are bad omens, and we have espe- 
cially seen that spectre-ships were such. 

• Greey.— Wonderful Citr of Tokio. 
+DiT(len.— JEneid, Bk. I±. 


There are those, with Cox, who would have these all 
cloud-ships, wafted hither and thither by the changing 
winds; and as the clouds presage storm, so the typical 
spectre-ship precedes disaster. 

But the nature-myth theory will not explain enough 
here. Perhaps it has its influence, for we have, seen the 
sun imagined as traveling in a ship, the clouds figured as 
barks moved by the winds, etc. Such nature-myths have 
doubtless played their part in the legends we have alluded 
to, and in others concerning strange and mysterious ships. 
In the last chapter, we traced the effects of the sun-myth in 
the formation of the death-ship legends. The Argo, that 
wandered in search of morning-beams, or, as later writers 
said, sought the evening-twilight land, is, like the golden 
cup of Helios, the sun itself. 

So Mone thinks Skidbladnir, which belonged to Freyr, 
the summer-god, typifies the summer months; and Hring- 
horn, in which Balder, the sun-god, is buried, the nine long 
winter months of the northern lands. But perhaps Cox is 
more apt in his likening Skidbladnir to the cloud, since we 
find other cloud-ships of story and song. *Fiske remarks: 
"Clouds are in Aryan lore ships, are mountains, or rocks," 
as the Symplegades; and Kelly: "Sometimes they were 
to\Kering castles, or mountains, or ships sailing on the 
heavenly waters." Many of the ships and boats of folk- 
lore, which move without sails or oars, are doubtless cloud- 
barks. ^ , 

Natural phenomena have alss had a prominent part 
in forming and perpetuating the wonderful story. fWhile 
the idea of a wandering curse seems to be an old one (Con- 
way shows it to exist in early Aryan and Greek legend), 
and an equally ancient myth exists, of the Voyage and Sea of 
Death, connected closely with the course of the setting sun — 
while these gave the incentive to the formation of the 
legend, it does not seem to have been elaborated until the 
revival of navigation had familiarized the sailor with the 
outer ocean, where the phenomena of nature present them- 
selves on a grander scale than in the narrow seas to which 
navigation had been confined. 

A derelict and corpse-laden bark, a pest-stricken slaver, 
a wandering pirate, or all these, would furnish material for 
the origin of the story of the wandering punishment, and 

*,^^hs and Ib^Oiakers. 

+ Wandedng Jew, CSiapter HL 


the wonderful images often seen in mirages at sea, the 
presence of mysterious natural lights there, the occasional 
remarkable resonance of the air, especially before storms, 
and other incidental causes, would aid thus in building up 
the complete legend. * "A ship seen upside-down in a 
mirage is called (in Denmark) the 'Ship of Death,' and is 
a bad omen. 

f A particularly apt illustration of the effects of natural 
causes is given in a modern book of travels. One evening 
they beheld, close to Point Danger, on the South African 
coast, a well-known English man-of-war, a short distance 
away. They saw familiar faces on board, and a boat was 
lowered and manned, in sight of everybody. All recognized 
the " Barracouta," and they expected to find her at anchor, 
when they arrived, a short time after, in Simon's bay. It 
was a week, however, before she arrived, and then it was 
learned that she was at least three hundred miles from Port 
Danger, at the time referred to. The image seen was doubt- 
less due to reflection or refraction in some cloud or fog- 
bank. Arctic voyagers often speak of the very remarkable 
effects of refraction, and many of the nautical tales of phan- 
tom-ships are, beyond doubt, caused by the sight of images 
in cloud or fog-bank. 

The locality of the legend is one that would be naturally 
chosen, and would give a coloring of truth to the main feat- 
ures of the story. Here at the " Stormy Cape," Diaz turned, 
fearing to advance farther, as his predecessors had at Capes 
Nun and Bojador. In the cloud that hung over Table 
mountain, still known to mariners as the " Devil's Table 
Cloth," hovered the spectre of the cape, the terror of mari- 
ners for many years. In the clouds that incessantly hover 
over the high peaks of land, would often be reflected strange 
sights, invisible else to the mariner. 

There are also suflScient reasons why the hero of the tale 
should be a Dutchman. They were, at the time of the for- 
mation of the legend, foremost among the navigators of the 
world. They were cool and phlegmatic, in contrast with 
the excitable and volatile Portuguese and Spanish. Doubt- 
less then, as now, they were superior seamen, in which case, 
in accordance with the spirit of the age, their superior skill 
would certainly be attributed to some league with the evil 
one. From the north also came the story of the spectral 

*p. C. Andersen.—" 0- T.," a n<)vel. 
•f Owen.^Voyasre to Africa, 1838. 



bark, which, we have seen, bore a great resemblance to the 
original tale of Falkenberg. This legend itself, we remember, 
was located in the North Sea — hence was probably older 
than the others. Perhaps here, also, the early conflict be- 
tween Christianity and German Paganism may have had its 
effect — as Conway* shows it did in perpetuating the legend 
of the Jew. So the Dutch Van der Decken [on the deck (?)] 
would be himself the evil spirit, which, in the early form of 
the legend, plays dice for his soul. 

The advent of steam forever banished the legend from 
nautical minds, and at last terminated the punishment of 
the wanderer. One feature was destroyed when a ship 
should be able to move against wind and tide. But the 
spectral captain had his revenge, for he seems to have taken 
with him the traditional sailor, almost as much a memory 
of the past as the Phantom Ship. 

* Wandering Jew, Ch. X. 



" Twas so, the ancient skipper spake. 
His face with terror pale; 
' There's here some murderous wretch on board. 

Hinders the ship to sail. 
Up, men, we'll cast the lot about 

On whom it falls, we'll see, 
And if their sails a villain here 
So overboard shall he! '" 

—Old EngHsh Ballad. 

" If any there be beneath the wave 
That hinder the ship to sail, 
I'll give you silver and ruddy gold 
To send us a fav'ring gale. " 

— ^* German- Gladeswain" {Danish Sang), 

kE shall not be surprised, after 
learning of the many deities, de- 
mons, ghosts, etc., believed in by 
the sailor, to find many usages 
resorted to to propitiate them. 
Among these, the most ancient, 
as well as the most natural to 
the primitive or superstitious mind, 
are sacrifices and offerings. These 
have been often alluded to in the pre- 
ceding chapters, and are frequently 
referred to and described by ancient 
writers. Human sacrifices were doubt- 
less the earliest of these, and seem to 
have been thought particularly effica- 
cious by Semitic nations, who thought 
the sea typhonic, or diabolic. Animal sacrifices 
were, however, more common in antiquity, es- 
pecially among the Greeks -and Romans. But offerings 
were often substituted, either to the elements, to the gods 
imagined powerful at sea, or to the Virgin and Saints, in 



later times. It was frequently customarj' to offer these in 
the form of a libation or oblation, and we shall find in the 
next chapter a surviving relic of this usage, in the modern 
custom of breaking a bottle of wine over the bows of a ship 
in launching her. 

Among the Phoenician mariners, human sacrifices were 
perhaps common, as in these lands the worshipers of 
Baal -were accustomed to such horrid rites. Whatever we 
may think is meant by the storj' of Jonah, whether we be- 
lieve it mj'thical or real, it certainly describes an occurrence 
not uncommon. * " Then the mariners were afraid, and 
cried every man unto his God. * * * And they said 
every one to his fellow, ' Come, and let us cast lots, that we 
may know for whose cause this evil is upon us.' So they 
cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. So the)' took up 
Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea, and the sea ceased 
from her raging." 

When Xerxes, in the course of his conquests, came to the 
sea, he availed himself, as other eastern conquerers had done 
before him, of the ships of the maritime nations of lesser 
Asia, and doubtless from them received also their customs 
in regard to sacrifices, f He sacrificed a human life to the 
Hellespont, and at Artemesium,J the handsomest Greek cap- 
tive was slain over the bows of his admiral's ship. At 
Mycale, too, he was only induced to engage the Greeks by 
the fortunate omen of propitious sacrifices. 

The Tauri, a Thracian tribe inhabiting the Crimea, had 
a temple dedicated to a goddess called bj' the Greeks Diana 
Taurica, and to her sacrificed shipwrecked persons. Here 
Iphigenia recognized and delivered Orestes, about to be- 
come a victim to the custom. 

Idomeneus, king of Crete, is said to have vowed to sac- 
rifice to Neptune the first living thing he should meet after 
a storm, and this happening to be his son, he' fulfilled the 
vow religiously. 

Such sacrifices were not unknown even among the more 
humane Greeks. Plutarch tells us of a virgin being sacri- 
ficed to Amphitrite. Iphigenia was near being sacrificed at 
Aulis by the Greek leaders whose fleet was there wind- 
bound on its way to Troy. When threatened with the Per- 
sian invasion, they made an extraordinary sacrifice to 

♦Jonah, C!h. I, V. 7. 

+ Herodotus. 

t Parker,— Fleets of the World, p. 26. 


Boreas, whose blasts thereafter destroyed the invading fleet 
at Artemesium. Medea nearly became asacrifice, during the 
return voyage of the Argonauts. 

We even find relics of this barbarous custom during the 
middle ages. * Mussulman chroniclers tell us that a virgin 
was then sacrificed to the river Nile, but was later replaced 
by a mummy's finger. Savary says an earthen figure was 
used in later days, f Moore refers to this custom: 

" Pallid as she, the young devoted bride 
Of the fierce Nile, when decked in all the pride 
Of nuptial pomp, she leaped into his tide." 

The old Norseman frequently offered human sacrifices to 
the gods. Saxo saysr "Thorkill's ship was mysteriously 
stopped at sea, until a man was thrown overboard." 

An old ballad from " Pedlar's Pack" illustrates the idea 
of a sacrifice to allay a storm, — 

" They had not sailed a league, but threes 
Till raging grew the roaring sea, 
There rose a tempest in the skies, 
Which filled our hearts with great surprise. 
The sea did wash, both fore and aft. 
Till scarce one sail on board was left; 
Our yards were split, and our rigging tore. 
The like was never seen before; 
The boatswain then he did declare 
The captain was a murderer. 
Which did enrage the whole ship's crew; 
Our captain overboard we threw." 

The gale, according to the story, then ceased. 

X As recorded elsewhere, three men were sacrificed dur- 
ing Gorm's voyage to Biarmia, to free the ship from pursu- 
ing demons. There is an old Swedish tradition that St. 
Peter was once called upon to choose passengers for sacrifice 
from among fifteen Jews and fifteen Christians, and he so 
arranged them that Jews only were sacrificed. He xhose 
every ninth man, and arranged them thus: 4 Christians, 5 
Jews, 2 Christians, i Jew, 3 Christians, i Jew, i Christian, 
2 Jews, 2 Christians, 3 Jews, i Christian, 2 Jews, 2 Chris- 
tians, and I Jew. 

Kinlock says that in ancient Scotland, "when a ship 
became unmanageable, lots were cast to discover who occa- 

* Notes to Moore's Poems. 


tSee Chap. 11. 


sioned the disaster, and the man on whom the lot fell was 

Russian traditions tell of human sacrifices. The tale of 
Sadko was related in a former chapter. *A certain Cossack 
invader is said, in Muscovite annals, to have found it neces- 
sary to sacrifice a beloved Persian captive, at the crossing of 
the River Volga. 

f German tribes anciently offered human sacrifices at the 
crossing of rivers. 

Chinese have been known, says Jones, to fling men over- 
board in storms, to appease the offended deities. In 1465, 
several men are said to have been sacrificed, at the breaking 
of certain dykes, and in 1750, to prevent the tide from rising 

Many African tribes formerly sacrificed human lives to 
the sea. Such sacrifices were made to the Benin river, not 
many years since. JAt Whydah, a man is chosen bj^ the 
king, and sacrificed to Hu, god of the sea. He is carried 
down in a hammock, dressed in the dress, and having the 
stool and umbrella, of a minister of state, and is taken out 
into the sea, and thrown to the sharks. At Bon)', it was 
also a custom to sacrifice a man to the shark deities. 

Fanti negroes offer cattle and men to the fetich of the 

§ Fijians and Samoans formerly sacrificed human lives to 
their shark deities. When a new canoe was built or 
launched in Tahiti, human blood was spilt. Ellis says 
Polynesian fishermen sometimes wrapped their dead in red 
cloth, and threw them into the sea, supposing that ' sharks 
would eat them, be animated by their spirit, and thus spare 
the fishermen, when out at sea. 

II Human beings, gaily dressed, were sacrificed by ancient 
Mexicans to the spirit of a mountain torrent. Mendiez saj's 
boats were taken to a whirlpool in Lake Mexico, filled with 
children, and there sunk, a horrid propitiation to the gods 
supposed to dwell in subaqueous caverns. 

Animal sacrifices were, however, the rule among early 
navigators, when human sacrifices were reserved for dire 
extremity of peril. 

* Ealston.— Hussian Folk-lore. 

+ Grimm. — Teutonic MTthology. 

$ Burton. — Dahomej*. Vol. II. p. 141. 

g Ellis. — Polynesian Resf arches. 

I Bancroft.— Native Races, Vol. Ill, p. 457. 



The Greeks offered sacrifices when setting forth or 
returning from a voyage. After landing, it was to Jove 
Decensori; while at sea, to Poseidon, Athene, Amphitrite, 
Boreas, or some lesser sea or wind god. 

Homer often describes 

" These rites of Neptune, monarch of the deep." 
Menelaus ascribed a calm to the fact that 


*"No VOWS had we preferred, no victims slain! 
For this the gods each fav'ring gale restrain." 

And after arriving in Egypt, they 

"There quit the ships, and on the destined shore. 
With ritual hecatombs the gods adore. " 

And Minerva says to him, — 
•Pope.— Odyssey, Ch. IV. 


* " Now immolate the tongues, and mix the wine 
Sacred to Neptune, and the powers divine." 

But bulls, heifers or sheep were usually sacrificed to 
Neptune: * 

"There hecatombs of bulls, to Neptune slain. 
High-flaming, please the monarch of the main." 

Jason sacrificed two oxen, with a libation of honey, flour 
and oil, before sailing in the Argo. 

f Herodotus says Kleomomes sacrificed a bull to the sea 
before embarking for Nauplia. 

Ovid says, "Before the poop of the crowned vessel, 
crowned with flowers, they sacrifice a heifer without spot." 

Virgil says of JEneis,'l — 

"Thus having said, the sacrifices, laid 
On smoking altars, to the gods he paid, 
A bull to Neptune, an oblation due 
Another bull to bright Apollo slew, 
A milk-white ewe, the western winds to please. 
And one coal-black to calm the stormy seas." 

The Argonauts, too, sacrificed sheep: — 

§ " The choicest sheep they bade their leader slay, 
And to the power benign, due honors pay. 
He to the galley's poop with speed convey'd 
The choicest sheep, and, as he offer'd, pray'd." 

These sacrifices were offered by Greeks and Romans 
before and after a voyage, in time of danger, storm or calm , 
before going into action, and after a victory. Cymon offered 
victims to Apollo for his victory at the Eurymedon. Cicero 
says: |"Our generals, embarking on the sea, have been 
accustomed to offer a victim to the waves.'' The entrails 
of these victims were carefully inspected for omens of suc- 
cess or victory. The victim was eaten after the sacrifice. 
** Hannibal sacrificed animals to Poseidon. 

Phocaeans sacrificed to Poseidon the seal, their patro- 
nymic animal, f f Livy says Scipio cast the entrails of an 
animal into the sea, before embarking. 

Mariners and sea-faring people have been wont, in medias- 

* Pope.— Odyssey, Ch. IV. 

t History, BK. VI. 

i Dryden.— jEneid, Bk. in. 

§Appolonius Rhodius. — Argonautics. Fawkea' Trans. H, 680. 

I De Natura Deorum, Vol. Ill, p. 20. 

*• Tvlor, from Herodotus, Vol. VI. 

tt T. Li vj-.— History of Rome, XXIX, 27. 



val and modern times, occasionally to sacrifice some animal 
to the powers of the wave. Such sacrifices to the demons 
or spirits supposed to resided in the waters, have been 
alluded to in previous chapters. Many rivers, lakes and 
streams are still supposed to require an occasional victim, 
like the river in the couplet, — 

*" River of Dart! River of Dart! 

Every year thou claimest a heart! " 

fBarbary corsairs sacrificed sheep and fowls to the 
spirits of the storm, and Arab navigators also dedicated an 
occasional cock to the evil spirit, accompanying it with an 
offering of wax candles and oil. Ancient Norsemen devoted 
a black lamb to the water-spirits. 

A singular instance of a popular belief in the efficacy of 
animal sacrifices is shown in the trial of Marian Ribchart, in 
the Orkneys, in 1629. "Ye cum to Stronsay, and asking 
almes of Andro Couper, skipper of ane bark, he said, 
'Away! witch, carling, devil, nae farthing will ye fall!' 
quvairvpon ye went away verie offendit, and inconti- 
nentlie, he going to sea, the bark being vnder full sail, he 
ran made, and wold have luppen over boord; and his sone 
seeing him, got him in his armes, and held him, quvair- 
vpon the seikness immediately left him, and his sone ran 
made; and Thomas Paiterson, seeing him tak his madnes, 
and the father to run veile, ane day being in the bark, took 
the dog, and bladdit him vpon the tuo schoulders, and thair 
efter flang the said dogg in the sea, quvairby these in the 
bark were saiffed." 

X Russian tribes often sacrificed horses to the river spirits. 
A relic of human sacrifice is still visible in two ceremonies 
in Poland and Bavaria. In the former country, §a puppet 
of straw is flung into the water to propitiate the demons, 
with the words " the devil take you," and in Bavaria, a man 
wrapped in leaves is flung into a lake on Whit Sunday, and 
afterward allowed to swim out. 

An old Prussian legend is told, to the effect that Albert 
the Elder, not being able, in 1520, to repel the fleet of Sigis- 
mund of Poland, consented that a certain courtier should 
sacrifice to the ancient gods. A steer was the victim, and it 
is recorded that the enemy's fleet was stopped by a- shoal 

* Dyer.— English Folk-lore. 


t Grimm.— Teutonic Mythology, II, p. 542. 

SConway.— Demouology and Devil-lore, Vol. I, p. 80. 


mysteriously raised; but the fish, at the same time, were 
driven away, and it required the further sacrifice of a sow 
to bring them back again. 

*Ostyaks hang a stone about a reindeer's neck, and cast 
it as a sacrifice into the river Obi. 

At Assam, sacrifices were formerly made to the gods of 
the sea and wind. 

Chinese still offer fowls at the shrine of the River Goddess, 
Loong Moo.\ The captain stands before an altar in the 
bow, with three cups of wine on it. He takes a live fowl, 
cuts its throat, first pouring out wine from the cups, and 
then spills the blood upon the deck, and sprinkles with it 
bits of gilt paper. 

Japanese legends of Jinnu record that that queen sacri- 
ficed to the sea-gods as early as 207 A.D. 

Philippine Islanders formerly cast sacrifices to the alli- 
gators in the rivers. In many South-Sea Islands it was 
formerly a custom, when casting a new net, to offer animal 
sacrifices on the beach. Fijians threw overboard dogs, to 
remove ill-luck from their canoes. J Tonga Islanders sacri- 
fice to the whale when they meet one at sea. § Polynesians 
sacrificed the first fish caught to the male gods, the second 
to the female ones. Peruvian tribes sacrificed to sacred fish. 

Our own Indians frequentl)' sacrificed animals to the 
spirits of the water. Hennepin saw sacrifices made at St. 
Anthony's falls, where a number of men had been drowned 
at one time. Sacrifices were also seen by early travelers on 
Lakes Winnipeg and Pend d'Oreille. 

II Dogs were frequently thrown in, with their legs bound. 

** Esquimaux offer foxes' tails, probably as a type of the 
living animal, to the water spirits. In passing certain capes, 
they always sacrifice to the spirits there resident. Kamt- 
chatkans offered animals to the whale deities. 

Instead of sacrifices, offerings of food, clothing, money, 
or gifts of equal value, were given, and even in antiquity 
were, as we have seen, joined to the sacrifices. 

After the victory at Salamis,f f three Phcenician vessels, a 
statue holding the beak of a ship, and a brazen mast with 
three golden stars on it were given to the Delphic temple. 

*Tylor.— Primitive Culture, Vol. I, p. 211. 

+ Jones. — Credulities, pp. 47-8. 

t Manner.— Tonga Islands. 

i Grey.— Pol.rnesian Jlythology, p. 215. 

B Charlevoix. — Nouvelle France, Vol. I, p. 394. 

**Bink. — Tales and Tradition of tlie Esquimaux. 

++ Parker.— Fleets of the World, p. 42. 


Prizes were frequently dedicated to the gods. *Phormio, 
after his victory at Naupactus, offered a galley to Poseidon, 
and erected a trophy on Antirrhium promontory. The Con- 
sul Duilius, after a naval victory, erected a rostral column 
(so called from having affixed to it images of the rostra, or 
beaks of the captured ships); f Antigonus, after battle, 
linen, cloth, and entire fleeces; others cast in cheese, wax, 
bread, every one according to his ability. 

J An early traveler gives us an account of an offering 
made by sailors in the Black Sea. The ship had been long 
wind-bound near a rocky promontory, where a deity called 
Semes was supposed to reside, and the men said the vessel 
was charmed. The second mate declared that they would 
not get away without an offering. They were detained 
there four days; and after they got away, the mate said: 
"Ah, well! when I told you that you should propitiate 
Semes, you laughed at me; but, notwithstanding, if, during 
the night, I had not taken the resolution to climb secretly 
upon the rocks, you would never have passed them." 

It was a custom in Germany, during the fifteenth and 
sixteenth centuries, to offer carp and pike to St. Ulrich, a 
fisherman's patron. 

§ Grimm shows, from old documents, that the Alemanni 
and Franks sacrificed horses at river-crossings. 

|] Livonian fishermen, before putting to sea, propitiate 
the divinities by a libation of brandy, poured on the waters. 

Norwegian sailors frequently rhade offerings to the 
water-spirits, as did Germans and Danes. A tradition exists 
that a man would offer a cake to the sea, but it viras frozen 
over. He cut a hole in the ice, when a hand reached out 
and seized the cake. 

** Fishermen of Folkstone formerly chose eight whitings 
out of each boat, and made a feast to a certain Saint Rum- 
bald, at Christmas. In certain parts of Cornwall, they used 
to set aside a certain part of the catch, and leave it on the 
beach, as an offering to Bucca, a spirit greatly feared. 

ff Thevenot says he saw offerings to the sea, made in the 
East Indies, in 1689. A woman came to the seaside at 
Dabot, bringing a vessel of straw, with dishes of meat, 

* Gravi^re.— La Marine des Anoiens. 

+ Renard.— L'Art Na%'al, p. 134. 

tSigisiQud). L. Baroni. — Commentaria della Moscovia, 

I Deutsche Myt.hologie, Vol. I, p. 503. 

IFaiTar. — Primitive Customs, Vol. I, p. 185. 

** Hasted.— History of Kent, Vol. Ill, p. 380. 

tt Voyage to Hindostan (1584), 245. 


fruits, etc., in a procession with music, banners, etc. The 
vessel was cast into the sea, and the meats and fruits left 
upon the shore. 

* Navigators of Amboyna, passing by a certain coast of 
Malacc^l, were in the habit of offering flowers and meats, 
in a cocoa-shell by day, and, oil burning in a shell, by 
night, to the demons of a mountain near the coast. fSo 
Moore tells us that lamps filled with cocoanut-oil were 
formerly set afloat on the Ganges, as an offering for those 
at sea. If they sank immediately, it was ominous; but a 
good sign, if they floated until out of sight. The same 
author speaks of sacrifices, which, Morier says, were made 
by Moslem navigators: J 

" While breezes from the Indian Sea 

Blow round Selama's sainted cape 
And cool the shining flood beneath, 

Whose waves are rich with many a grape 
And cocoanut and flowery wreath. 

Which pious seamen, as they passed. 

Had toward that holy headland cast 

Oblations to the Genii there 

For gentle skies and breezes fair." 

§ Lam pongs of Sumatra make an offering of cakes and 
sweetmeats to the sea, on first beholding it, so that it 
may not injure them. In many East India islands, it was 
formerly the custom to set adrift proas laden with food, 
etc., as an offering to the spirits of disease, to entice them 
to sea. 

The Siamese still float down the rivers small bamboo 
rafts, with images, offerings, and a lighted taper on them. 

A traveler in Cochin China tells us of a rock in the 
rapids of a certain river, where the natives, in passing, 
always made an offering. On one occasion, when he was 
present, bananas and betelnuts were offered by the Indians, 
and a biscuit for the traveler, while the pilot stood up and 
made a speech. A raft afterward overturning there, the 
natives claimed that the god of that spot, Berala Bonjok, 
was offended at the white man's offering. 

II Chinese sailors, offer to the sailor-goddess bits of red 
paper with votive prayers on them, tobacco and incense, 

* Yule.— Marco Polo. 

+ Notes to Moore's Poems. 

i Lalla Eookh. 

g Srarsden. — Sumatra, 301. 

I J. Verne.— Tribvilations of a Chinaman. 



and hang near the compass gilt-paper boats. Food is also 
offered, and afterward eaten. Chinese boatmen throw food 
to crows that may alight on the masts of their junks, as an 
offering to secure a good passage. * In a dead calm, gilt- 
paper boats are set afloat, to secure a breeze. The owners 


of junks also offer food at the shrine of the Queen of 
Heaven. Salt is thrown in the water, when any one is 
drowned. River sailors throw bread on the water, as an 
offering. This custom is said to have originated about 
200 A.D., when a certain general was told by sooth-sayers 

♦Gray.— China. 


to sacrifice forty-nine men, but substituted loaves of bread 
for them. 

* A certain mandarin is said to have thrown overboard 
in a storm, in the Yangtze river, an inkstand, which he 
valued greatly as a gift. The storm ceased, and an island 
arose there, which is still known as Inkstand island. 

fin one of Giles' tales, a fisherman obtains luck by a 
liberal libation to the deities. Archdeacon Gray says he 
saw, in a temple to the sailor-goddess, at Tientsin, bags of 
salt, with the donors' names on them. 

Early travelers in Japan tell us of offerings to the sea- 
gods. JJapanese, saved from wreck, cut off their short 
qiieues, "a Japanese seaman's ordinary vow." A traveler 
says that in 1822, on the occasion of the detention of a 
junk by unfavorable winds, a barrel of "saki," or native 
wine, and many copper coins, were thrown overboard, to 
propitiate Kompira, a god of the elements, and to obtain 
favorable weather. 

§Burkhardt, speaking of a voyage to Cairo, says: "An 
island near the coast contains the tomb of a saint. Sheik 
Hassan el Merabet, who is counted of great repute in the 
waters thereabout. Boats are sent from passing ships, 
with presents of dates, figs, etc., to propitiate the saint. 
When we sailed by, our reis made a large loaf of bread, 
which he baked in the ashes, and distributed a morsel of it 
to every person on board, who eat it in honor of the saint." 

To propitiate evil spirits in the waters, he says: "They 
have the constant practice of throwing, at every meal, a 
handful of dressed victuals into the sea, and, before they 
sit down themselves to their repast, saying that the inhab- 
itants of the sea must have their morsels, otherwise they 
will impede the vessel's course." 

II Madras coolies suspend a bag of coins, or other valu- 
ables, from the masthead, as an offering. They also cast 
refuse articles in the sea, as a propitiatory offering. 

** Phillips, who visited Africa in 1693, says the king of 
the Caboceers, when they feared to embark because of the 
rough sea, made flattering speeches to it, telling it to be 
smooth, and offered oil, cloth, corn, rice and brandj'. 

* Jones. — Credulities. 
tChinese Tales. — Pin Sungr Ling. 
t Kaempfer.— Japan. 

STravels in Arabia, Vol. II, p. 347. 

1 Notes and Queries, December 13, 13S4. 

♦•Astlay.— Voyages, Vol. VII, p. 401. 


Dahomey negroes also offer oil, rice, corn, beans, cloth 
and shells to the ocean-god. Villant says he saw men near 
Akra offer sheep and gallipots to the water-deities. 

*So in the Mafa river, in the Veil country, in West 
Africa, an offering of tobacco, rice, or rum, is made, at a 
dangerous rock. 

I Tonga islanders offered kava and oil to the sea-gods, 
of whom the whale was chief. Maldive islanders burned a 
new boat before setting out on a voyage; and Malakai fish- 
ermen obtain turtles by liberal offers to the gods of the 

J Ancient Peruvians made offerings to the water-spirits. 
Muyscas extended cords across the lake, and offered gold 
and precious oils at their intersection. §Zacs threw gold- 
dust and oil into the waves. Paraguayan Indians offer 
tobacco or tobacco smoke to the gods, at fishing-time. 
Mosquito Indians threw food to the spirits of a certain 
gorge in the Paluch river. || A certain spot near the Guiana 
coast is called the Devil's Hole, and Indians cast cassava 
balls in it, when passing, to appease the yroucan, or deviL 

** Kurile islanders threw their idols into the sea. 

Indians frequently made offerings to the spirits of the 
water and of the winds, f f Weid says the Ojibways and 
Chippeways offered a Manitou-stone to the winds, to in- 
crease the speed of their canoe. Xt Prescott says Indians, in 
crossing a lake, lighted their pipes and smoked, to invoke 
light and fair winds. §§ Tanner says that Algonquins, in 
voyaging with a fleet of their canoes, prayed to the Great 
Spirit, and threw tobacco in the water as an offering. 
III! Sauks strewed the water with fruit and tobacco, and 
chanted a hymn. *** Breboeuf saw offerings of tobacco made 
at falls in the Wisconsin river. |f | Franklin says an Indian 
offered a knife, tobacco and other articles to water-spirits, 
because his squaw was ill. California Chibchas threw 
offerings in the Devil's lake. J;U So, in passing certain caves 

'Tylor.— Primitive Culttire. 

•t Parmer. — Tonga, p. 124. 

tAstley.— Voyages, vn, p. 411. 

8 Clarlgero.— Mexico, p. &. 

i Noyer, in Ann. Maritime, 1824, p. 251. 

♦* Tylor. — Primitive Culture. 

++ Eeise nach America, 

tt Schoolcraft.— Indian Tribes, Vol. Ill, p. 336. 

88 Narrative, p. 4B. 

tl Hennepin.— Louisiana, p. 137. 

•"Relation des J&uits, p. 138 (1636). 

tt+ Journey to Polar Sea, Vol. II, p. 245. 

tttDc»rmjui.— Origin of Primitive Customs, p. 3aL 


in Lake Winnipeg, offerings were made to the spirits sup- 
posed to reside there. 

* Carver says whenever the Indians " arrive on the banks 
of the Mississippi, or any other great body of water, they 
present to the spirit who resides there some kind of offer- 
ing, as the prince of the Winnebagoes did when he attended 
me to the falls of St Anthony." 

Marc Antony, after the defeat of Ptolemy, offered a large 
galley to Apollo. 

f Sennacherib, when about to set out on an expedition 
down the Euphrates, dedicated to Hea a golden boat, a 
chest and some fish. 

Offerings became common in the middle ages. Priests 
of Philae in Egypt were wont annually to throw a ring in 
the river, as an offering. Barbary corsairs offered wax can; 
dies, and Algerine pirates also. J Mariners of 1600, says 
Jal, threw pieces of bread and salt in the sea, as an offering. 
Greek sailors carried to sea loaves of bread, consecrated to 
St. Nicholas, and threw them, one by one, into the sea, in 
case of storm. 

" The Sieur D , who was most terrified of all, and who 

had already cast into the sea little loaves of St. Nicholas, 
which the Greeks believe to be powerful in allaying bad 
weather, was the first to put hand to the good works reserved 
to his office." 

§ Erasmus, in the Shipwreck, tells us: " Some were lying 
along upon the boards, worshiping the sea, pouring oil 
they had into it, and flattering it, as if it had been some in- 
censed prince. " Oh, most merciful sea! Oh, most beauti- 
ful, rich sea! be pacified, save us!' and a deal of such things 
they said to the deaf sea." 

These offerings often took the form of libations, exam- 
ples of which have already been given. Greeks made such 
libations, with the sacrifices. So the Argonauts: 
"Their halsers now they loose, and on the brine. 
To Neptune pour the consecrated wine." 

And Anchises, — 

I " crowned a cup with wine, 

And off'ring, thus implored the powers divine: 

' Ye gods, presiding over lands and seas. 
And you who raging winds and wars appease. 
Breathe on our swelling sails a prosp'ring wind 
And smooth our passage to the port assign'd.' " 
»P. 325. 

+ Eawllnson.— Notes to Herodotus. § Colloquies, 1516. 

t Jal.— Gloesalre Nautique, " Pain." II Virgil.— .aEneld, Ch. m. . 


* Martin chronicles an old ceremony in Lewis Island, in 
which a libation was made. " The inhabitants of the island 
had an ancient custom to sacrifice to a sea-god, called Skony, 
at Hallow-tide, in the following manner: The inhabitants 
around the island came to the church at St. Mulvay, having 
each man his provision along with him; every family fur- 
nished a peck of malt, and this was brewed into ale. One of 
their number was picked out to wade into the sea, and car- 
rying a cup of ale in his hand, standing still in that position, 
cried out with a loud voice, ' I give you this cup of ale, hop- 
ing you will be so kind as to give us plenty of sea-weed for 
enriching our ground the ensuing year,' and so threw the 
cup of ale into the sea. This was performed in the night 
time. At his return to land, they all went to the church." 

f Esthonian fishermen poured out a measure of beer, say- 
ing " give also his share to the young fellow (devil), for a 
good haul." 

On ascension day, it was formerly a custom to make 
libations to the river Tyne. J Holy water was, not many 
years since, kept in some of the islands north of Scotland, 
to sprinkle on the waves, in time of storm. 

We have recorded many instances of the use of oil as an 
offering. The use of oil to calm the waves was mentioned 
by Plutarch, and it is possible that a recognition of its real 
eflBcacy often led to its use as an offering. Williams says 
Fijians poured out a libation of kava and oil, and said, 
" Gods, be of a gracious mind, and send a wind from the 

Votive offerings, vowed during times of peril or ship- 
wreck, have been common among seamen in all ages. These 
were given in various shapes. Greeks and Romans offered 
to the Gods the garments, in which they escaped death by 
shipwreck. The hair was also cut off, and offered in grati- 
tude for such an escape. 

§ Erasmus says a man offered a piece of sailcloth in grati- 
tude for his escape from wreck. Cardinal Colonna gave to 
the cathedral in Alghero, Sardinia, a skull of one of the 
Innocents slain by Herod, as he had vowed when in danger 
from shipwreck. || Canute, returning from Rome, gave the 
port of Sandwich, with its revenues, to Canterbury Cathedral. 

•Account of the Western Islands of Scotland, 1716. 
+ Holzmayer.— Osiliana, in Melusine, Feb. 1885. 
t Grant.— Mysteries of All Nations, 528. 
I Absurda.— Colloquies (1518). 
I Jones. — Credulities, p. 58. 



A tradition of St. Anthony's church, in Cornwall, is that 
it was built by people who vowed to do so, in return for 
being saved from wreck. 

In St. Malo river, Luzon Island, is a temple said to have 
been built by a wealthy Chinaman, in gratitude to St. Nich- 
olas, who, when invoked, saved him from peril. 

Quite frequently, this offering took the form of the model 
of a ship, generally that in which the danger was incurred. 
The Romans vowed ships of marble to Jupiter Redax, and 
deposited them in his temple. 

*A votive ship was found in the coffin of an Egyptian 
queen, and is preserved in the museum at Boulacq, near 
Cairo. It is of solid gold, mounted on wheels of bronze, 
supporting a wooden running-gear. There are twelve silver 
rowers, and a captain, steersman, and another man forward 
in solid gold. 

f Silver and gold images of vessels were vowed in the 
middle ages. In July, 1397, the master of the Trinity, as 
shown on the English Rolls, paid for a silver ship, vowed to 
the Virgin at Anger, for saving his ship in a storm. Join- 
ville says that the queen of St. Louis, during a storm, on 
her return from the Holy Land, vowed a silver ship to St. 
Nicholas, and it was made, with the figures of the queen 
and all the sailors, in silver. 

JJoinville says, " On the queen's return to France, she 
caused the ship to be made that she had vowed, and had in- 
troduced in it the king, herself, and three children, with all 
the sailors, masts, and steerage, all of silver, and the ropes of 
silver thread. This ship she sent me with orders to carry it 
to the shrine of my lord St. Nicholas, which I did." 

In front of the Church of Sta. Maria della Navicella, in 
Rome, which stands on the site of an old temple' to Jupiter, 
is a small marble ship, which was offered by Leo X, and 
vowed by him after his escape from shipwreck. 

§ The life of Godehard Hildesieus tells us that that 
churchman, when endangered by a storm at sea, vowed a 
silver ship, and afterward dedicated it to a church, where it 
hung until Lothair's time. 

In St. ■ Bavon, in Harlaem, are the figures of a three- 
decker, two-decker, and twentj'-gun sloop. These replace 

* Marlette Bey.— Catalog:ue of Boulacq Museum. 

+ Jones.— Credulities, pp. 59 and 60. 

t Vie de St. Louis. 

S Grimm.— Teutonic Mj-thology. 


Others hung here in gratitude by Crusaders, on their return 
from the fifth crusade. 

"^ Grimm says a church in a village in Holstein has the 
image of a ship hung up in it, which, on the opening of spring, 
is gaily decorated with green plants, flags, ribbons, etc. 

f The Lapps hang a, small figure of a ship, stained with 
reindeer's blood, on trees at Christmas time. 

Such offerings are seen in many seaside temples in 
Europe. In other countries, too, they are occasionally 
found. J Commander Shore says there is at Tientsin a tem- 
ple to the Queen of Heaven, and models of junks hang from 
the ceiling, votive offerings from grateful seamen. 

§ Pictured ships, or scenes of wrecks, tempests, and ^o 
forth, were in antiquity common, and Juvenal says (Sat. 

"As Isis temples show. 
By many a pictured scene of woe." 

Bion says, "But this tablet, given by one after a ship- 
wreck, pleased me." {| 
And Horace: 

** ' ' Me in my vowed 
Picture the sacred wall declares to have hung 
My dank and dripping weeds 
To the stern god of the sea," 

An old scholiast to Horace tells us: "But we see some 
days certain ones who also paint their calamities in tablets, 
and hang them in the temples of marine gods." 

ff Phaedrus alludes to another custom: 

" Others their tablets 
Carry, begging alms " ; 

and other writers tell us that persons who had suffered 
from shipwreck, sometimes obtained aid by these means. 

These scenes are common in the seaside temples and 
chapels of Europe, and a large collection may be seen in 
such marine temples as the church at Honfleur, Notre 
Dame des Plots, near Havre, Notre Dame des Gardes at 
Marseilles, at Rouen, Ciudadella at Minorca, or in other 

•Teutonic Mythology, 1, 269 (note). 
+ Grimm.— Teutonic Mythology, I, p. 265. 
iFlig-ht of the I^apwing, 1881. 
g Jones.— Credulities, p. 42. 
IHampeon. — !Medii JEvi Kalendarium. 
•»Ode v.— Milton's Translation. 
^ -t+Hampson.— Medil .^Evi Kalendarium. 


maritime places, accompanied sometimes by touching or 
ludicrous inscriptions. 

* Hampson says they were to be seen in England in the 
early part of the present century. 

f Cicero says Diagoras, being shown such votive tablets, 
and being asked whether he did not now recognize the 
power of the gods, said; "But where are the portraits of 
those who have perished in spite of their vows?" 

Vows to make these varied offerings became quite nu- 
merous, after Christianity had furnished so man)' saints 
and shrines. 

I Grimm quotes an old saga to the effect that Norse 
voyagers devoted three casks of ale to Freya for fair winds 
to Sweden; to Thor, or Odin, for favoring breezes to Ice- 

§ Erasmus relates instances of such vows: "There was 
an Englishman there that promised a golden mountain to 
.Our Lady of Walsingham, so he did but get ashore alive. 
Others promised a great many things to the shrine of the 
saint which was in such a place; and the same was done by 
the Virgin Mary, who reigns in many places. Some made 
promises to become Carthusians. There was one who 
promised to go on a pilgrimage to St. James of Compos- 
tella barefooted and bareheaded, clothed in a coat of mail, 
and begging his bread all the way." 

" Did no one think of St. Christopher ? I heard one, and 
could not help smiling, who, with a shout, lest he should 
not be heard, promised to St. Christopher, who dwells in 
the great church at Paris, and is a mountain rather than a 
statue, a wax image as great as himself. He had repeated 
this more than once, bellowing as loud as he could, when 
the man who happened to be next to him touched him 
with his finger, and hinted: 'You could not pay that, even 
if you set all to auction.' Then the other, in a voice low 
enough that St. Christopher might not hear him, whispered, 
'Be still, you fool! Do you fancy I am speaking in 
earnest ? If I once touch the shore, I shall not give him a 
tallow-candle.' " 

Equally ludicrous is the story told of a certain man, 
who, greatl}' terrified in a storm, vowed he would eat no 

•Medil jEvi Kalendarium. 1-68, 80. 
i De Natura Deorum. 
tTeutonic Mrthology. 
S Colloquy of the Shipwreck (1816). 


haberdine. Just as the danger was over, he qualified his 
promise with "Not without mustard, O Lord!" 

*Such vows, made during peril at sea, were common 
among the seamen of Columbus' time. During a severe 
storm, he put beans in a cup, and lots were drawn to 
decide who was to make a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our 
Lady of Guadeloupe, with a taper weighing five pounds. 
The lot fell on Columbus himself, and he religiously per- 
formed it. At another time, the lot fell on him to make a 
pilgrimage to another shrine, and the third time it was one 
Pietro de Viela, who was chosen to go to Our Lady of 
Loretto. The crew then vowed to go to the first chapel, 
when they landed, which vow was performed at St. Mary's, 
in the Azores, as related in the next chapter. 

We also read in the journal of his fourth voyage: "And 
being in great danger of perishing, they made a vow to 
send one of their number on a pilgrimage to the shrine of 
Nuestra Senora de Cintra at Guebra; and the lot fell on 
the admiral, showing that his offerings were more accept- 
able than those of others." 

In the relation of Amerigo Vespucci's third voyage, we 
also read: "In this extremity, our sailors made many vows 
of pilgrimages for their safety, and performed many cere- 
monies, according to the custom of seafaring men." 

f Admiral Howard wrote to Henry VIII.: "I have given 
him (Captain Arthur) liberty to go home, for when he was 
in extreme danger he called upon Our Lady of Walsing- 
ham for health and comfort, and made a vow that, an it 
pleased God and her to deliver him out of the peril, he 
would never eat flesh or fish until he had seen her." 

Dieppe sailors, during the middle ages; were wont to 
vow pilgrimages to certain shrines in time of trouble or 
storm at sea. 

J Byron says, describing a storm at sea, 

"Some went to prayers again, and made vows 
Of candles to their saints. " 

The silver ship given by the queen of St. Louis was 
made in accordance with a vow. Joinville says: §" She said 
she wanted the king to beg he would make some vows to 
God and the saints, for the sailors around her were in the 

' Gravifere.— Les Marlns du XV and XVI SiSoles. 
+ Jones.— Credulities, 58. 
} Don Juan, Canto II. 
6 Vie de 61. Louis. 


greatest danger of being drowned." 'Madam,' I replied, 
' vow to make a pilgrimage to my lord St. Nicholas, at 
Varengeville, and I promise you that God will restore you 
in safety to France. At least, then, madam, promise him 
that if God shall restore you in safety to France, you will 
give him a silver ship of the value of five masses. And if 
you shall do this, I assure you that at the entreaty of St. 
Nicholas, God will grant you a successful voyage.' Upon 
this, she made a vow of a silver ship to St. Nicholas. She 
shortly afterward came to us to say that God, at the inter- 
cession of St. Nicholas, had delivered us from that peril." 

* Scott says, " In very stormy weather, a fisherman (in 
Shetland) would vow an Oramus to St. Ronald, and ac- 
quitted himself of the obligation by flinging a sixpence over 
his left shoulder into the chapel window." He also tells us 
that St. Ninian's kirk was a noted shrine for the fulfillment 
of the vows of fishermen's wives, for the safety of their hus- 
bands at sea. 

f Kingston gives us this sketch of mariners' ceremonies 
in Portugal, during the last century: " The vows most faith- 
fully kept are those made by mariners on the stormy ocean, 
when their frail bar-k, tossed by the wave, is threatened each 
instant with destruction. As soon as they land, the captain 
and crew, frequently barefooted, form a procession, carry- 
ing their mainsail, tastefully decorated with flowers, to 
some familiar shrine. When mass had been performed, 
they reclaimed their sail, which of course belonged to the 
owner of the vessel." 

Sacrifices and offerings have been made in all ages, and 
by savage as well as civilized people, to propitiate the gods 
and gain their favors. Sometimes the deit)% in the case of 
the sea itself, is supposed to require and consume the gifts. 
When made to an animal, as the shark, it is supposed to be 
the incarnation of a deity. In any case, the sacrifice is a 
gift of homage to the supposed deity, and this is often 
something precious to the giver. Animals were substituted 
for men, after human sacrifices were abandoned, and offer- 
ings were in turn substituted for animal sacrifices. Many 
of the ceremonies described in the next chapter were under- 
taken to secure the same end — the favor of the deity. 

* Notes to " Pirate." 
tLuEianian Sketches. 



' ' Neptune rules about the line 
Till sunbeams cease above to shine." 

Newconu in the Navy 

" A seaman in a masquerade 
Such as appears to me from the deep, 
When o'er the line the merry vessels sweep, 
And the rough saturnalia of the tar. 
Flock o'er the deck in Neptune's borrowed car. 
And pleased, the god of ocean sees his name 
Revive once more, though but in mimic fame 
Of his true sons." Byron — Tki Island, 

ANY superstitious observance* 
have been common, from ancient 
to modern days, among mari- 
ners. We shall find these cere- 
monies addressed to the ship at 
various times in its history, to the 
paraphernalia ot the seaman and fish- 
erman, to the sea itself, and on certain 
occasions, to the saints, to Neptune 
or to lesser gods. 

Ceremonies at the laying of the 
keel, or at the launch of the new ves- 
sel into her destined element, h£.ve 
always been performed. * Ancient 
^~ authors state that the ship was 

launched with ceremonies, first decking it v/ith 
"' r?s»- flowers and crowns of leaves, and pouring out 
a libation. Similar practices prevailed during the middle 
ages. The vessel was decked with flowers, purified by a 
priest, anointed with egg and sulphur, consecrated and 
named for some saint, and then launched. 

When a modern ship of any size or importance is 
launched, it is frequently made a gala occasion, the vessel 

■*Jal.— GlossalreNautlque. BAptAme. 



being gaily decked with flags, and a band of music sta- 
tioned on board. The principal shores are removed, and 
but one or two left, to retain the cradle in which the ship is 
launched, upon the ways. When ready, it is usual to break 
a bottle of wine over the vessel's bow, then the last shore is 
removed, and the vessel glides into her destined element, 
amid the cheers of the beholders, and the strains of music. 
It was always regarded as a bad omen should any accident 
happen, or if the ship refused to move, or the wine was not 
spilled, or especially if any lives were lost. This must have 
occurred frequently during the middle ages, for we read 
that slaves or criminals were usually appointed to remove 
the last shores. In our day, this is done by electricity, the 
gentle finger of some favored maiden manipulating the key. 
In 1878 a large excursion steamer was launched at Nor- 
folk, Virginia, in presence of many invited guests. The 
wine was not broken over the bows, and many predicted 
disaster to the vessel, and regarded the omen as verified 
when the ship was lost while being towed to New York. 

* " Perhaps it will be remembered that when a big yacht 
was launched last summer, without the customary waste of 
a bottle of wine on her bows, the omission was telegraphed 
all over the world, because it showed a very remarkable 
temerity on the part of the owner." 

f Aubin says, " Most Roman Catholics give to their ves- 
sels the names of saints, under whose protection they have 
placed them; and in virtue of this choice that they have made 
of their protectors, it is to them that the prayers of the 
crews are addressed, in times of peril. They consecrate 
also, and baptize their ships, and attach a certain efficacy to 
this ceremony. Some among Lutherans baptize them also, 
but they attach no particular virtue to this baptism. 

I Among the ancient Norsemen, victims were attached to 
the rollers on which the ship was launched. This ceremony 
is alluded to in the Eddas, under the name of " hlun-rod," 
roHer-redde fling. 

Modern Greeks, in launching, decorate their ships with 
flowers, and the captain takes a jar of wine, puts it to his 
lips, and then pours it upon the deck. 

In the North of Scotland, it was, a short time ago, a cus- 
tom to launch a boat to a flowing tide. A feast of bread 

* New York DaOy, 1885. 

+ Diotionnaire de La Marine (17U2). 

t Corpus Poetarum Boreale, I, p. 410, in Mslusine, January 5, 1883. 


and cheese is distributed, the boat is named, a bottle of 
whisky broken over ' its bows, and then it is launched. 
Sometimes this charm is said over it, — 

* " Frae rocks and saands 
An' barren lands. 
An' ill men's hands. 
Keep's free, 
Weel oot, weel in 
Wi a guede shot." 

Fijians had certain ceremonies at the laying of the keel 
of a new canoe, as well as at launching it, generally involv- 
ing a human sacrifice. _f Mariner says, "Men were some- 
times murdered, to wash a new canoe's deck with blood." 
We are also told that it was sometimes a custom to use 
men as living rollers, on which to launch a new canoe. 

J Ellis says, " The priest had certain ceremonies to per- 
form, and .numerous and costly offerings were made to the 
gods of the chief and of the craft or profession, when the 
keel was laid down, when the canoe was finished, and when 
it was launched." 

Ships were consecrated or christened, even after launch- 
ing. The term baptism, used by old authors, is applied to 
the christening either at launching, or afterward. 

§ After a boat is finished, in Pas-de-Calais, France, a 
priest blesses it under a tent made on board, out of the 
mainsail. Wine and cakes are then devoured by the crew, 
and one offers to passers-by on the quay, a drink of wine. 
A refusal to drink is considered a bad omen. 

The choice of a name was alwaj's considered as of great 
importance. || Greek ships, always feminine, were often 
named for goddesses, while Romans made frequent choice 
of the appellations of the deities to serve as names for their 
galleys. ** Appian describes such a ceremony, "On the 
shores of the sea, altars with their bases washed by the 
waves, are erected. The ships of the fleet are arranged in 
a semicircle, the crews keeping during the ceremony^ro- 
found silence. The sacrificers enter the sea in boats, and 
row three times the round of the fleet, . . adding 

prayers to the gods to take evil luck from the ships. Then 

• Gregor. — Folk-lore of Scotland. 


t Ellis.— Polynesian Researches, I, p. 176. 

§ Labille.— Lea Borrts de la Mer, in Melusine, January, 1885. 

i Boeclc.— Urkunden des Attlschen Seewesens. 

** Jal.— Gl03saire Nautique, Art. B&ptfime, 


returning to the shore, they immolate bulls or calves, whose 
blood reddens the sea and shore." * Livy recounts a similar 
ceremony, where a whole fleet was baptized. 

As Aubin has already told us, a saint's name was pre- 
ferred in the middle-ages, and the fleets of the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries contained all the saints in the cal- 
endar. Hawkins' flag-ship was the Jesus, and the Holy 
Ghost was in Tourville's squadron, in 1692. The Santa 
Maria was one of Columbus' ships, and numerous other 
examples of this proclivity will occur to every reader. 

We find in a work entitled "Construction of a Galley," by 
J. Hobierf (1622), the following description of a christening 
in the middle ages: " The galley being in this state on land, 
more or less finished in the upper works, it was launched in 
the water with more or less difficulty and labor, after hav- 
ing been first blessed by a mass, and given a name by a 
godfather or godmother, which they call baptism." 

J In Scotland, a new boat is christened by a woman 
sprinkling barley or corn over it. One man seized a bride 
and marched her about his new boat, while still in the 

§ When a modern Greek captain first goes on board of 
his new ship, he hangs laurel and garlic about it, and drinks 
a libation to it. 

I Hindoo boatmen never build, launch, or man a new 
boat without a ceremony by a priest, entailing a heavy fee. 

After a new Fijian canoe was launched, it became neces- 
sary to throw stones in the house in which it was built, to 
charm away the gods of the carpenters. 

It was long a custom to bless ships before setting out on 
a voyage, especially on undertaking any expedition of great 
importance. ** The ships of the fleet of John de Outrema- 
rius were thus prepared for their voyage to the Holy Land, 
f f So the ships of the Armada were all publicly blessed, before 
their disastrous expedition against England. 

U*An item on the accounts of the English Rolls informs 
us that the Bishop of Bangor was paid five pounds for his 
expenses in going to Southampton, to bless the great ship 
Henry Grace de Dieu, in 1418. 

•eh. xxx^^. 

+ Jal. — Glossaire Nautique, BAptfeme. 

t Gregor.— Folk-lore ot Scotland. 

S Jones. — Credulities, p. 65. 

S Forbes.— Oriental Memoirs. 

*♦ Jones — CreciTilities, p. -to. 

tt Goodrich.— Man upon the Sea, p. 33. tt Jones.— Credulities, p. 65. 


* Before the Reformation, certain Yarmouth priests blessed 
the fishing boats, and preached an annual fishing sermon. 
Russian priests always bless the ships of the fleets leaving 
port for Siberia. 

Scotch fishermen formerly sprinkled their boats with 
"forespoken," or holy water. 

A traveler in a New Zealand canoe tells us, " The crew 
were in great strait because they had no priest to charm 
their canoe, to make it sail bravely when the wind blew." 

Masses, prayers and other ceremonies, were often resort- 
ed to, both at the beginning of a voyage, and at its success- 
ful termination, and also in any time of unusual danger or 
peril, f Covilham, after making a lucky landfall at Calicut, 
in the sixteenth century, summoned all his ship's crew to 
prayers, and said over the " Salve Regina," and gave thanks. 

I Da Gama and his entire crew passed the night in the 
Oratory, at Belem, near Lisbon, before setting out on their 
celebrated voyage, and § Columbus and his crew went in 
solemn procession to the convent of La Rabida, and he 
remained there all night, engaged in prayer, before his de- . 
parture to discover new lands. When the fleet of Outre- 
marius was overtaken by a storm, he requested the crew 
to pray for its safety, and we are told, the storm then ceased. 

J The fleets of St. Louis of France, were provided with 
means for conducting masses, etc., when they went to the 
Holy Land. Each ship had an altar, and priests were car- 
ried in each one. When the flag-ship struck the ground at 
Cyprus, Joinville tells us, " Many on board were kneeling 
before the holy sacrament on the ship's altar." So before 
setting out on their voyage, he tells us, ** " when the priests 
arid clerks embarked, the captain made them mount to the 
castle of the ship, and chant psalms in praise of God, that 
he might be pleased to grant us a prosperous voyage. 
They all, with a loud voice, say the beautiful hymn of 
' Veni, Creator,' from the beginning to the end." 

On another occasion, he tells us that a current, having 
kept the ship all night under a certain mountain on the 
Barbary coast, so as to be in danger of being driven ashore, 
they were told by one of the priests that, it being the third 

* Folk-lore Eecord. 

■tGravl^re.— Les Marins du XV et XVI Sidles, 
t Goodrich.— Man upon the Sea, p. 171. 
S Goodrich- — Man upon the Sea, p. 140. 
i Guferin.— Histoire Maritime de France, Vol. I, p. 48. 
♦Gu^rln.— Vol. I, p. 51. 


Saturday in the month, they should march in procession 
three times around the mast. " Now this day was a Satur- 
day, and we instantly began a procession around the masts 
of the ship." 

Before embarking on an expedition against France, 
Henry III, of England, visited the shrines of various saints, 
to obtain their influence in his undertaking. 

* Before a Spanish fleet sailed out of Vera Cruz harbor, 
in 1639, according to a letter from a gentleman of Malaga, 
a procession was inaugurated with a statue of the Virgin on 
board a certain ship, while others, getting under way, fired 
salutes in her honor. 

f In the account from the travels of Oderic, quoted in a 
previous chapter, pra}'ers are mentioned as resorted to to 
save the ship in the storm. " On this occasion, the idolaters 
began to pray to their gods for a favorable wind, but which 
the}' were unable to obtain. Then the Saracens as industri- 
ously made their invocations and adorations, to as little 
purpose. After this I and my companions were ordered to 
pray to God, and the commander of the ship said to me in 
the Armenian language, which the rest of the people on 
board did not understand, that unless we could procure a 
favorable wind from our God, he would throw both us and 
our bones into the sea. Then I and my companions went 
to our prayers, and we vowed to celebrate man)' masses in 
honor of the holy Virgin, if she would vouchsafe us a wind." 

J On one occasion, Drake's flag-ship grounded in the East 
Indies. The whole crew went to prayers, and the sacrament 
Vas administered to each one. 

§ Erasmus, in his graphic picture, "The Shipwreck," says 
mariners praj'ed to the Virgin and saints: "One sang his 
'Hail, Queen!' another, 'I believe in God!' There were 
some who had certain (particular prayers, not without mag- 
ical charms against dangers." 

I West India buccanneers often had prayers said for their 
safety, and the successful issue of their marauding expedi- 

**Arab and Barbary corsairs, during the middle ages, 
whipped their Christian captives, when other means of 

♦Letter of Juan de Lauroz, in F. Duro's Disquisiciones Nauticas, Vol. II. 

+ See Chap. TIT. 

i Goodrich.— Man upon the Sea, p. 255. 

§ Colloquies (1516). 

I Goodrich, p. 336. 

*♦ Dan.— History'of Barbary. 



obtaining favorable winds had been exhausted, and made 
them pray for them. 

* Dieppe fishermen, during the seventeenth century, fre- 
quently had prayers at sea, preceded by a curious cere- 
mony. A boy ran about the decks with a lighted candle in 
his hand, inviting all to come upon deck, and crying, " The 


candle of the good Lord is lighted! The holy name of 
God be praised!" The oldest sailor (nicknamed the cure) 
then repeated prayers. They, as well as other mariners, 
generally, during the middle ages and afterward, sang a 
Te Deum on the completion of a successful voyage. 


* Fishermen at Clovelly, in the north of Scotland, had a 
special service in church, at which the One Hundred and 
Seventh psalm, containing those sublime verses, "They 
that go down to the sea in ships," etc., was read. A special 
prayer was then said, too long for insertion here, but con- 
taining petitions for safety from storms and wreck at sea, 
and beseeching the Lord to send an abundance of fish to 

When a Breton fisherman puts to sea, he says, " Keep 
me^ my God; my boat is so small, thy ocean so wide." 

f When a Breton boat is wind-bound, two of the crew 
are sent to a chapel of Ste. Marine at Combrit, to sweep 
the chapel, and throw the dust in the direction of the 
desired wind. This saint is also importuned by the families 
of absent fishermen, to return them safely home. A similar 
ceremony is practiced at a chapel in Penmarch, by sailors' 
wives, only the dust is swept in a corner of the church. 

I In the Isle de Sein, a little ship made of breadcrusts is 
suspended over the table, and, on Holy Thursday, it is 
lowered down and burnt, while all uncover, and the "Veni, 
Creator" is sung. Another bread-ship is then suspended 
over the table. This ceremony is called the " Ship-feast," 
and is designed to insure the safety of the family fishing- 

§ In Sicily, on Ascension Eve, peasants go to the sea- 
shore, kneel, and repeat the following prayer as the waves 
roll in, stopping with the ninth: 

" I salnte thee, sea-fountain, 
The Lord has sent me here; 
You should give me good, 
For I give thee my ills." 

Each time the prayer is recited, a handful of sand is col- 
lected, which is afterward cast on the roofs of silk-worm 
raisers, while a certain formula is repeated. 

II Tyndall gives the following account of a ceremony 
performed bj' Sardinian fishermen: "Amidst the cheers of 
the men at having made a good capture of fish, a general 
silence prevailed; the leader, in his little boat, having 
checked the hilarity, and assumed a priestly as we" as a 

•Choice Notes.— Notes and Queries, p. 271. 
■flj.F. Sauv6. in M^usine, Decembers, 18S4. 
t Melusine, January, 1885. 

e T. Gannlzzaro, in Melusine, Decemtjer B, 1884. 
I Jones.— Credulities, 36-7. 


piscatorial character, taking off his cap — an example fol- 
lowed by all his company — commenced a species of chant 
or litany, in invocation of the saints, to which an 'Ora pro 
nobis " chorus was made by the sailors. After the Virgin 
Mary had been appealed to, and her protection against 
accidents particularly requested, as the ancients did to 
Neptune, a series of saints were called over, half of whose 
names I knew not, but who were evidently influential persons 
in the fishing department." Then follows a description of 
appeals to particular saints, which will be found elsewhere.* 
" Besides the saints of such undoubted authority and inter- 
est in tunny-fishing, the shrines of general saints, as well as 
local ones, were called over, and a blessing requested 
for the principal towns and places in the Mediterranean 
which purchased the fish." "The next day, the weather 
being unpropitious, a fresh invocation of the saints was 
made in church at vespers, and fishermen and others were 
assembled to implore a change of wind and a successful 
fish on the morrow." 

f A similar ceremony to secure luck in fishing is de- 
scribed in the following words by an eye-witness, as having 
taken place among French fishermen at Etretat, in Nor 
mandy, on St. Sauveur's day: 

" When all was ready, the organ struck up, and through 
the open door the fishermen entered, carrying between 
them a floral pyramid surmounted by a model of a fishing- 
boat, over a huge loaf — a peculiar kind of light, sweetened 
bread, called brioche, which was to serve for the/az« bent." 

" Each fisherman carried a candle, not the long church- 
candle belonging to ecclesiastical ceremonies, but a primi- 
tive tallow^ dip, with a piece of paper wound round the end 
that it should not soil the hand. 

" The leader, the village sailmaker, led in the cantique, 
which was almost as old as the church, praying for each 
part of the hull and rigging of the boats separately, and to 
be saved from the power of the Turks and pirates, while all 
joined in the repetition of the last line of each stanza not 
very strong or audibly, for strangely these fishermen, strong 
of lungs in the open air, were afraid of hearing their own 
voices in the church." 

\ Gibbons tells us, "A particular form of ceremony and 

*See Chap. II. 

+ Letter In Boston Transcript, 1880. 

± Rmrfnff fhe nonrnflKS. 


thanksgiving, and observed on the island of Capri, in honor 
of Madonna di Carmela, by the coral fishers previous to the 
departure of their fleet every spring. A somewhat modified 
form of the ceremony is observed by tne Canton and Foo- 
chow sailors, wrho call at the island of Pootoo, in the Chusan 
Archipelago, on their passage up and down the China Sea, 
where they pray for fair winds and a prosperous voyage." 

A davie, or a blazing tar-barrel, was formerly carried 
deiseal (with the sun) about every ship in Binghead Har- 
bor, Moray Firth, Scotland. 

Nannie Scott, a Northumberland witch, prayed for fair 
winds for sailors' wives, during the last part of the eigh- 
teenth century. 

* One of Paul Jones' biographers tells us that, on the 
occasion of his famous raid on the Scottish coast, the minis- 
ter and people came down to the shce at Kirkaldy, and a 
prayer was offered, in which the Lore vas begged to send a 
storm to repel the invader. One came soon after, and 
Jones was blown off the coast, and it was always believed 
that the prayer was directly answered. 

f In a Russian folk-lore tale, a man calms the angry waves 
by prayer, and by promising to pay a debt. 

I Joshua Coffin tells us that the privateers of Newbury- 
port used to request the prayers of the congregation before 
setting out to sea, and always obtained them. 

§ So the " Filibustiers " first fell on their knees at quarters 
(each group at their gun), to pray God that they might ob- 
tain both victor}' and plunder. 

Society Islanders prayed to their god before launching 
their canoes. || Fijians accompanied a libation to the sea- 
gods, with this prayer, " Let the gods be of a gracious mind, 
and send us a wind from the east." Samoans prayed to 
the sailing-gods before each meal. 

Kamtchatdales prayed to the storm-god, sending a naked 
child around the village with a shell in his hand. ** Hurons 
prayed to a local god, " Oko, thou who livest in this spot, we 
offer thee tobacco; help us, and save us from shipwreck." 

Many other ceremonies have been observed by sailors 
and sea-faring people, to obtain luck in winds, fish, etc. 

* J. K. Laughton. 
+Ralaton.--&usslan Folk-lore. 
JDrake.— Legends of New England, p. 300. 
8 Ihornburv.— The Buocanneers. 
IWUliams.— Fiji, 

•"Tjrlor.— PiimiW-TO Culture, VoL 11, p. 208. 


*Virgil testifies to a custom of Greek and Roman sailors, 
after escaping the dangers of a stormy voyage, — 

" So sailors, when escap'd from stormy seas. 
First crow(n their poops, and then enjoy their ease." 

And Ovid alludes to the same custom. 

In the journal of Columbus' voyages, we find this descrip- 
tion of the performance of a ceremony vowed, as seen in 
the last chapters, while in danger at sea, after arriving at 
St. Mary's, in the Azores: f "The Admiral and all the crew, 
bearing in remembrance the vow whijch they had made the 
Thursday before, to go barefooted and in their shirts to 
some church of our Lady at the first land, were of the 
opinion that they ought to discharge this vow. . . . 
They accordingly landed, and proceeded according to their 
vow, barefooted and in their shirts, toward the hermitage." 

I When Magellan's ship arrived at Seville, the crew per- 
formed penance, going barefooted and in their shirts, to Our 
Lady of Victory, with lighted tapers in their hands, in per- 
formance of a vow made while in danger. 

§ William the Conqueror, before setting out for England, 
had the body of St. Vallery carried about to obtain favora- 
ble winds and a prosperous voyage to England. 

II At Fraserburg, in England, at the commencement of 
the fishing season, a procession of fantastically-dressed men, 
with bagpipes, part on horseback and part on foot, travel 
about the fishing village, preceded by a man with a tall 
crowned hat having a herring's tail stuck in it. 

Another ceremony is thus described: **"The herring 
fishing being very backward, some of the fishermen of 
Buckie, on Wednesday last, dressed a cooper in a flannel 
shirt with burrs stuck all over it, and in this condition he 
was carried in procession through the town in a hand- 
barrow. This was done to bring better luck to the fishing." 

If At Moray Firth, in Scotland, a new boat went to sea 
in advance of the others in the fleet. If it was found suc- 
cessful, it was deemed a good sign. The boats raced on 
their way home, and the first boat in was bound to provide 
a feast of bread and cheese. 

* GeoTgic I. 

+ Gravi^re.— Les Marine du XV et XVT SiMes. 
t Plgafetti, in Goodricll.— Kac upon the Sea, p. 229. 
' g Turner.— Anglo-Saxons. 
Folk-lore Kecord. 
*» Banff Journal. 
+t Gregor.— Folk-iore of Scotland. 



California Indians formerly propitiated the gods of the 
sea, by certain ceremonies at the commencement of the fish- 
ing season. 

*Fijians built a new canoe as a final ceremony at the 
death of a king, and it was regularly put to sleep and waked 
by beat of drum. 

Williams says all canoes approaching Mbui Island had to 
lower their sails and submit to many degrading ceremonies 
before they were permitted to land. It was said that a god 
once visited this island on a bamboo, guided by a superior 
deity in the shape of a rat, but he passed his guide on the 
way, and hence all canoes suffer degradation for his fault. 

f In the Maldive Islands, it was formerly the custom to 
set a new boat on fire, and to perform certain other cere- 
monies with offerings before setting out on a voyage. 

When Chinese vessels leave port, all other junks in the 
harbor burn crackers and incense and beat gongs, etc., to 
propitiate the gods. Offerings are made to them in temples, 
after arriving in port. During a squall, sacrifices and offer- 
ings are made, as detailed in the last chapter. 

J Negroes on the West African coast, when the sea is 
stormy, form a procession, and walk toward it, sacrificing 
an ox or a goat, and spilling its blood on the sand, throwing 
a ring into the water at the same time, as a charm. 

§ Du Chaillu says when the Mpongwee negroes go on a 
voyage, they fire guns, and wish a pleasant sail, "with loud 
shouts, and they receive a vessel arriving safely, with similar 

Greek and Roman sailors, when they hoisted their sails, 
were in the habit of consigning them to Castor and Pollux. 
II Similarly, the mariner of the middle ages, in tacking ship, 
was wont, at the most critical part of the ceremony, to con- 
sign the vessel into the hands of God, lest the manceuvre 
fail. This was the origin of a command, corresponding to 
our " Helm's alee! " that is not yet entirely eliminated from 
marine vocabularies. **The Provenfal mariner said, "A 
Dieu Va," and the Spanish or Portuguese, " A Dios Va," 
directly committing the vessel into God's hands, while the 
Dutchman was content with saying, " Overstaag, in God's 

• Williams.— riji Islands. 

t Grant.— Jlysteries of All Nations, p. 53. 

t Tylor.— Anthropoiog-y. 

I Journey to Ashango Land. 

I Jal. — Glossaire Nautique. 

"Teckleaborg.— Marine Dictionary. 


name." These commands are interesting examples of sur- 
vivals of prayers for assistance in performing the evolution. 
It was also a custom to say " Coupe, de par de Dieu " (Cut, 
for God's sake), when a rope or sail was cut loose. 

Not only was it thought necessary to consecrate the ship 
or boat, but fishermen often thought it advisable to perform 
some ceremony over their nets, or fishing gear. * Grant 
says an English fisherman, not many years' since, had his 
nets sprinkled, because they were bewitched. It was still in 
1879 a custom to salt them, in the Tweed. Nets of Sar- 
dinian fishermen were formerly smoked with the smoke of 
need-fires, kindled with sacred wood, by drilling, the motion 
being " with the sun." 

Hurons and Athabascan Indians married their nets to 
young girls, to obtain luck in fishing. 

These ceremonies have also been addressed to the sea 
itself. Such was the famous annual wedding of the Adri- 
atic. This was instituted in honor of a great naval victory 
over the Saracens, f Pope Alexander III. giving a ring for 
that purpose, in 11 74. The Doge, in the magnificently de- 
corated Bucentaur, or state barge, attended by a gay fleet 
of gondolas and barges, proceeded to a certain spot in the 
Lagoon, and there performed the ceremony. First, a large 
cask of consecrated water was thrown into the sea, as a pre- 
ventive against storms, etc. Then a priest, when the Doge 
was ready with the ring, poured in a large ewer of holy 
water, and the ring, of gold, containing precious stones of 
onyx, lapis-lazfili and malachite, was thrown into the same 
spot. Flowers were afterward strewn on the water, and 
then all proceeded to St. Nicholas' church, where mass was 
said. This festival took place on Ascension Day. 

A ceremony was held in Venice, in 1569, to commem- 
orate the deliverance of the naval arsenal from destruction. 
Mass was said in a convenient church, after the sea had 
been blessed, and races and festivities followed. 

I The Greeks cast a cross in the sea on the l8th of Jan- 
uar)% with certain ceremonies, to render it fit for naviga- 
tion. §The waters are blessed at Constantinople on the 
eighteenth of January, and on the same day the waters of 
the Neva are blessed in Russia. A chapel is then built on 

* Grant.— Mysteries of All Nations, p. 578. 
+ Jal. — Glossaire Xautique. Art. Bucentaur. 
t Jones.— Broad. Broad Ocean^p. 240. 
5 Jonee. — Credulities, p. 66. 


the ice, and the priest dips out water through a hole, mak- 
ing the sign of the cross three times, and then sprinkles the 
people with holy water. The people carry home bottles of 
the Neva water, for purifying purposes. 

In Roumania, the New Year begins with a blessing of 
the waters, to exorcise the demons therein. 

At Dieppe, not twenty years since, priests blessed the 
sea, sprinkling water upon it, signing the cross over it, and 
saying litanies for the repose of the souls of the drowned. 

Kerry fishermen formerly had an annual mass performed 
in the bay. 

. * Every spring at Port Louis, France, a ceremony is ob- 
served by the fishermen, when a thousand boats form in a 
procession, and follow a gaily-decorated barge to the fish- 
ing-ground, where a priest, from the poop of the barge, 
blesses the sea. 

Instances of ceremonies, sacrifices and oblations offered 
directly to the sea are given in the last chapter, and were 
numerous during the early days of navigation. 

f Burnes says the sailors of Scinde sing songs to the 
saints, in passing certain dangerous spots in the rivers. 

J Many maritime ceremonies were performed on certain 
days, particularly on those set apart in the calendar as 
saints' da)rs, and on the other holidays of the year. Many 
of these take place on St. Nicholas' day. Such a ceremony 
is described here as occurring at Bari, in Italy: — 

"Tradition has it that the saint, when in life, came from 
Mira to Bari on this day; and, therefore, every year, on the 
eighth of May, his arrival is celebrated by emiaarking him on 
two rafts and transporting him to the very spot where he 
is said to have landed for the first time in 1085. A number 
of gaily-decked boats, follow the saint by sea. Some are 
filled with kneeling pilgrims, singing h3rmns; others, on the 
contrary, are filled with pretty women, in pretty morning- 
dresses; whilst others are filled with j^oung fellows, who 
follow the ladies." 

§ St. Peter's day was also frequently observed. An old 
account of the Lordship of Gisborough, in Yorkshire, tells 
us: "The fishermen on St. Peter's daye invited their 
friends and kinfolk to a festyvall kept after their fashion 

♦Pacini.— La Marine. 

t Travels Into Bokhara. 

t Correspondent Boston Transcript, 1881. 

SBrand.— Antiquities, Vol. Ill, p. 333. 





with a free hearte, and no show of niggardnesse. That 
day, their boats are dressed curiously for the showe, their 
masts are painted, and certain r)'tes observed amongst them 
with sprynklying their bowes with good liquor, sold with 
them at a groate a quarte, which custome or superstition, 
sucked from their ancestors, even continyeth doune vnto 
this present tyme." 

*On the same saint's day, bonfires are lighted in Pen- 
zance, and other Cornish towns, to open the fishing season. 
This is also done on midsummer eve, and it is a survival of 
an extensive sun-worship, formerly prevalent. 

. Fishermen of Cleveland, Yorkshire, held a ceremony 
similar to that described above, dressing their boats with 
flags and streamers, and sprinkling liquor on them. 

On New Year's day, in the Isle of Man, fishermen hunt 
the wren, to find the one that was traditionally a siren who 
deluded a young fisherman by her arts. 

f On May day, in Dorsetshire, England, the children of 
each boat's crew deck the prows of their boats with flowers, 
and then march to the sea, and throw flowers in it. 

J Fishermen at Hartlepool, on the first Monday after 
Epiphany, parade the streets, dragging a fool-plough or 
slot (a small anchor), asking gifts and singing carols. 

On Whit-Monday, the sailors at Arzoe, in Brittany, visit 
a shrine of St. Anne, in performance of a vow made by 
their ancestors, in a naval combat with the Dutch. They 
go in boats, ornamented with red sails, the leading one 
having flags and streamers flying, and carrying in its bows 
a priest with a crucifix. 

§ On Shrove-Tuesday, at Kopeneck, in Germany, fisher- 
men go about from house to house, with ice-hooks, fish- 
hooks and other implements in hand, and sing a recitation, 
in which they beg food and money. 

The Sunday before Shrove Tuesda}', the proprietors of 
certain fisheries near Berlin were formed}' in the habit of 
meeting and choosing their respective fishing-ponds bj' lot. 
The next day their men were wont to assemble, carrying 
about on a pole a gaily decked- model of a ship, and singing 
a song similar to that at Kopeneck, visiting their patrons 
in turn. 

• Bottrell.— Traditions and Fireside Storlee of West Cornwall. 

+ Folk-lore Kecord. 

t Jones.— Broad, Broad Ocean, p. 241. 

§Wolf. — Deutsche MSrchen und Sagen. 


* On Good Friday, Catholic mariners in many lands still 
cockbill their yards in mourning, and many scourge an 
effigy of Judas. Such a ceremony is described as follows, 
in 1810: "Good Friday was observed with the most pro- 
found adoration on board the Portuguese and Spanish men- 
of-war at Plymouth. A figure of the traitor Judas Iscariot 
was suspended from the bowsprit end of each ship, which 
hung till sunset, when it was cut down, ripped up, the rep- 
resentation of the heart cut into strips, and the whole 
thrown into the water, after which the crews of the differ- 
ent ships sang in good style the evening song to the Virgin 
Mary. On board the Iphigenia, Spanish flagship, the effigy 
of Judas Iscariot hung at the yard arm until Sunday even- 
ing, when it was cut down." 

f An English paper describes such a ceremony as occur- 
ring so lately as 1881: 

" The old Good Friday custom of flogging an effigy of 
Judas Iscariot was, after a 1 lapse of two years, duly cele- 
brated in the London docks on April 7, by the crews of 
three Portuguese and Maltese vessels. The effigy of the 
traitor, hewn out of a block of timber, was carried by 
chosen members of the crews round the quarter deck and 
hanged from the yard arm, and each man chanted his vitu- 
peration as he lashed the figure with knotted ropes. The 
scourging over, Judas was cut down, thrown upon the deck, 
spat upon, cursed, and kicked to the galley fire, where he was 
burned into a charred mass, and then hurled into the water, 
after which the sailors went in procession to church." 

J On May 16, St. John Nepomuc is honored in Magj'ar 
lands,. by throwing his image in the Danube, while people 
follow it in boats, playing musical instruments, etc. 

§In many Russian towns, the Rusalkas, or water-demons, 
are expelled by throwing straw figures into the lakes and 
rivers during Rusalka week. 

Among miscellaneous observances are to be noted the 

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, it was the cus- 
torn to place in churches boxes for collections, designed for 
seamen and their families. These boxes were labeled for 
each ship, and were opened at Christmas. 

'Brand.— Antiquities, Vol. in, p. 153. 

+ Quoted in Boston Transcript, 1881. 

t Magyar Folk-lore, Notes and Qu>:-ries, December 27, 1883. 

i Kalston.— Songs of the Bu^ida People. 


Whalers were in the habit of suspending aloft a garland 
or wreath of flowers and leaves, and carrying it to sea with 
them. * Hone says: "A custom prevails among the seamen 
of these vessels, when traversing the polar seas, to fix, on 
the first day of May, a garland aloft, suspended midway on 
a rope leading from the main topgallant mast head to the 
first topmast head, ornamented with knots of ribbon, love 
tokens of the lads for their lassies, etc. This garland re- 
mains suspended till the ship reaches once more her port." 
It was regarded as an ill omen to detach this garland, or for 
it to receive any accident. 

The ceremony best known among those practiced among 
sailors, and concerning which much has been written, is 
that observed in modern times, " on crossing the line," from 
north into south latitude, or vice versa, as the case may be. 

This custom, still observed as a pastime among sailors, 
is another of those remarkable survivals of ancient practices 
begun as actual worship of some deity, and finally existing 
as mere customs, without any significance. Anciently the 
Greeks sacrificed, on nearing any prominent cape, on many 
of which temples to the deities were placed. During the 
middle ages, the present ceremony of receiving a visit from 
a fictitious Neptune, arose, when it was not, of course, 
performed at the equator, but on arriving within the tropics, 
crossing the Arctic Circle, and even in passing certain capes, 

f Aubin quotes some older writer concerning this cere- 
mony: "It is a custom practiced from all antiquity, that 
those who are apprenticed to the sea, and who pass certain 
places, where they have never passed, undergo this penalty, 
under the favorable name of Baptism; that is, to be cast 
from the yard-arm into the sea. The ships also are sub- 
jected to this ceremony, so ridiculous (of Baptism). It may 
be said that is a recompense for the rejection by the Re- 
formers, of that which, among the Roman Catholics, has re- 
mained an act of religion; these latter baptizing effectively 
their ships, the first tinje they are placed in the sea. When 
the occasion presented, and the ships arrived in these conse- 
crated places, that is to say, where they had never been, the 
master was obliged to redeem them; otherwise the crew at 
once proceeded to cut off the ship's nose, or the whole outer 
part of the prow, or to disfigure or destroy some other part 

•Table Book. 

tAubln.— Dictiommire Nflutique (1702). Art. Bapteme. 


of the ship. Those whom they will to cast from the yard- 
arms into the sea, could redeem themselves by giving money 
to the crew. As to the boys, instead of dipping them from 
the yard-arms, they put them under a basket surrounded by 
tubs full of water, and each one dipped it out with buckets 
and threw water on them." 

In after times, the ruder features of this ceremony were 
dropped, while the essential ones, baptism and a penalty, 
were retained, and a more extended ceremony added. 

The same author describes this ceremony as occurring in 
French ships about the middle of the seventeenth century: 
" As a preparation, there are ranged on the "upper deck, on 
both sides, tubs full of sea-water, and sailors, formed in two 
rows, stand near, each with a bucket in his hand. The chief 
steward comes to the foot of the mainmast, his face full- 
bearded, and his body attired in gaskets, entirely surround- 
ing him, and ropes' ends hanging from his arms. He is 
followed by five or six sailors, equipped in the sam.f manner, 
and holds in his hand some marine book, to represent the 
Gospels of the Evangelists. The man who is to be baptized 
kneels before the steward, who making him put his hand on 
the book, forces him to promise that whenever an occasion 
presented itself of baptizing others, he would impose upon 
them the same ceremonies which were inflicted on him. 
After this oath, the one to be baptized rises, and, marching 
between the rows of tubs, and the people who wait for him 
with buckets full, he reaches the bow, and thus receives 
what is called the baptism." 

*A description of this ceremony, celebrated about the 
same time, and given by M. Jal, shows that the usages of 
the present time with regard to it were already observed: 
"The second mate, dressed as Neptune, wore a long cap on 
his head, and a fringed collar of parrel-trucks and small 
blocks. His long beard, and hair, made of tow, were matted 
with sea shells, and his face was blackened. In his hands he 
carried a chart-book (such a book was then called a Nep- 
tune), opened at the chart showing the position of the ship. 
Each one of the crew knelt before him, and swore by bread 
and salt that he had previously passed the line. If not, the 
mate dubbed them kneeling, with a blow of his wooden 
sword, and the crew then threw water over each victim 
until he paid a penalty of wine or money." 

* Jal. — Glossalre Nautique, from CExmelin, Hlstoire des Fllbustlers. 


The same authority tells us that in Dutch ships, during 
the seventeenth century, the roll was called by the clerk of 
the ship, when passing these places, and each man answered 
to his name, and indicated whether he had passed the place 
before or not. If he had not, he was fined, and compelled 
to pay fifteen sols, or else was attached to a rope, hoisted 
to the main yard-arm, and dipped three times into the sea. 
The officers were fined thirty sols, the passengers mulcted 
of all they would pay. 

These are the earliest descriptions of this ceremony, but 
we learn that between the voyages of Columbus, in 1492, 
when no mention is made of it, and 1529, the French cre- 
ated a sort of an order of knighthood,* the "Chevaliers de 
la Mer " (Knights of the Sea), by giving novices an accolade 
on the shoulder when passing these places, and giving a 
feast after each ceremony. 

During the middle-ages, the novice was often terrified at 
the horrible appearance of Neptune and his crew, and was 
usually bidden to watch for lights near the chosen spots. 

f De Plancy says the Devil was caricatured in costume, 
in the Neptune ceremony, being brought on board in a 

It was especially the custom among Dutch mariners to 
observe these ceremonies at Capes Raz and Bailonges. 
Even admirals were compelled to pay these fines. The 
clerk bought wines for the crew with the money thus gain- 
ed. So greatly was this privilege abused, that the J Dutch 
East India Company prohibited these fines in 1669, and 
Charles IX. of Sweden, some years previous to this, abol- 
ished the right to claim fines, and allowed to each of the 
crew a bottle of wine on crossing the equator and the tropic 

This ceremony, as performed in modern times, has been 
often described. It is now obser\^ed merely as a pastime 
among sailors, only on crossing the equator, and officers 
and passengers are rarely troubled. 

§ Hone describes it as performed on board whaling ves- 
sels, early in the present centurj^, on the first day of May, 
or on crossing the Arctic circle. The novices were kept be- 
low decks, and a barber-shop was fitted up, with a sign, 

* Journal of J. Parmentier, in Jal. Glossaire Nautique, B&pt^me. 

+ Dictionnaire Infernale. 

t Jal. — Glo&saire Nautlo ue, Bapt^me. 

8 Table Boot, Vol. I, m. 


" Neptune's Easy-shaving Shop, Kept by John Johnson." 
Then a procession, consisting of ten fiddlers, dressed in 
mats and rags, Neptune riding on a gun-carriage, with his 
usual retinue of tritons, etc., was formed. On reaching the 
quarter-deck, Neptune interrogated the captain, asking the 
name of the ship, her destination, and similar questions, 
and, on three quarts of rum being produced, drank the cap- 
tain's health. The novices were then brought up, questioned 
as to their names, ages, destinations, etc., and were then 
put through the usual rough shaving process. 

* Chaplain Rockwell tells us that among the usual feat- 
ures of the procession during the earl)' part of the present 
century, was a trio composed of two bears led by a triton. 
He says some explain this as a representation of Ursa Major 
and Ursa Minor, disappearing under the horizon as the 
equator is crossed, under the guardianship of Arctophylax 

f Marryat gives an excellent description of the modern 
ceremony. Neptune appears, preceded by a young man, 
dandily dressed in tights, riding on a car made of a gun car- 
riage, drawn by six nearly naked blacks, spotted with yellow 
paint. He has a long beard and ringlets of oakum, an iron 
crown on his head, and carries a trident with a small dol- 
phin between its prongs. His attendants consist of his 
secretary, with quills of the sea-fowl; surgeon, with lancet, 
pill-box, etc.; barber, with huge wooden razor, with its 
blade made of an iron hoop, and his mate, with a small tub 
for a shaving box. Amphitrite also appears, wearing a 
woman's night-cap, with sea-weed ribbons on her head, and 
bearing an albicore on her harpoon, carrying a boy in her 
lap as a baby, with a marlinspike to cut his teeth on. She 
is attended by three men dressed as nymphs, with curry- 
combs, mirrors and pots of red paint. The sheep-pen, 
lined with canvas, and filled with water, had been already 
prepared. The victim was seated on a platform laid over 
it, blindfolded, first shaved by the barber, and then plunged 
backward into the water. Officers were expected to pay a 
fine. Marryat says this ceremony was performed at the 
tropics, if the ship did not intend to cross the line. 

The ceremony is sometimes observ-ed among the fisher- 
men on Newfoundland banks. J " Practical jokes are played 

•Sketches of Foreign Travel (1817). 

+ Mildmay. 

tFish and Men In the Maine Islands. Harper's, May, 188i. 


on greenhorns on their first visit to the banks, where Nept- 
une, in a garment of rock-weed, sometimes comes on board 
to shave them with a broad hoop." 

A traveler in Austria, in the early part of this century, 
tells us, that on board the regular passenger boat, on arriv- 
ing at the whirlpool called Wirbel, the steersman goes about 
with water in a scoop, which he throws upon the passen- 
gers who have not passed before. 

Many festivals have been observed at various times by 
sailors, fishermen, and maritime folk in all countries. Such 
festivals, connected with navigation, were not uncommon in 
antiquity. The Eg3-ptians had several. Nile boatmen and 
mariners held an annual festival attended with great de- 
bauchery and license. On the 15th of December, offerings 
of grain, etc., were made to the river Nile. 

In the annual festival of Isis, at the opening of naviga- 
tion, or of spring, a small boat was set adrift, in which incense 
had been placed b)' the priests. A sacred boat was also 
carried about on men's shoulders, in this festival. In many 
of these festivals, such boats, dedicated to Ra, the Sun-god, 
were thus carried about. 

*The numerous representations of these on the existing 
monuments show us golden barks, built of precious woods 
and inlaid with stones, with prow and stern adorned with 
sacred emblems, and the image of the god in a tabernacje in 
the center. These are found in the Oasis temples also, and 
they have images of priests and gods on them. Sacred boats 
were in use on the Nile, and are often spoken of as carrying 
the king on religious occasions. These were called Tum- 
or Ra-barks, and Baris. 

f Plutarch describes the annual festival: "The Egyptians 
go down at night to the sea; at which time the priests and 
supporters carry the sacred vehicle. In this is a golden 
vessel in the shape of a ship or boat, into which they take 
and pour some of the river water. Upon this being per- 
formed, a shout of jo}' is raised; and Osiris is supposed to be 

The Apis bull, when found, was also carried in procession 
on the Nile. 

The worship of Isis, transplanted to Greece and Rome, 
was there continued. On the 5th of March, at the Festival 
of Navigation, her bark was carried in joyous procession. 

♦EosseUini.— I Monument!. Lepsius.— Denkmalsr, aus jEgypt. 
tDe Isidis et Osiris. 


The Greeks had also their sacred barks, dedicated to 
Poseidon and to Athena, while the Romans carried about, 
in triumphal and sacred processions, the barks of Jupiter 
Redax, or of Neptune, god of the waters. * In the yearly- 
procession of Athena, a bark proceeded from the Piraeus to 
Athens, having h.e.x peplos, or sacred veil, as a sail. 

Several festivals of a maritime nature were celebrated by 
the Greeks. Apuleius tells us that priests of Aphrodite 
yearly dedicated to her a new ship, laden with the first 
fruits of spring, as soon as the storms of winter were over. 
Lactantius also says that on a certain day, a ship was borne 
about in honor of Isis, to show that navigation was opened. 
Pausanius says Hercules was carried on a raft or float, in 
certain rites in his honor in Ionia. Aristides says a ship 
was carried in procession in the Dyonisiac festival in Smyrna. 
Clemens Aiexandrinus says honors were paid to an un- 
known hero at Phalerus, seated in a ship. 

f Two ships were sacred in another sense among the 
Athenians. These were the " Paralos " and the " Salami- 
nian." The former carried tribute, messages, worshipers, 
etc., to the sacred temple at Delos, and the latter was used 
in festivals to promote the memory of the victory of Salamis. 
Antigonus consecrated a ship to Apollo after he defeated 
Ptolemy. The boat Esculapius carried to commemorate 
his arrival in that city in time of pest, was of stone, cut in 
the shape of a galley. 

An annual festival was held at Delos, to which priests 
repaired, in these sacred ships. 

The annual festival at Salamis is thus described: " Each 
year, a ship left Athens and came quietlj^ to Salamis. Many 
people from the island came down in front of the ship, pell- 
mell, in great disorder, and an Athenian jumped ashore, 
with arms in his hands, and ran, crying aloud, toward those 
who came from on shore." 

A yearly festival in honor of Isis was held at Rome, when 
the Isis ship, gaily decked with flowers, was launched on 
the Tiber before a multitude of people, who then repaired 
to the temples and sacrificed to the gods. Ausonius says: 
" I add the cult, sacred to foreign lands, the Hercules, or 
the ship of Isis, a naval ceremony." 

The Roman naval triumphs, undertaken by conquerors 
after a naval victory, were festivals, in which were carried 

* M>UTay.— MytholoRT, p. 5 
+ JaL— G-iossaire Nautlque. 



in procession pictures of naval triumphs, trophies of battle, 
prows of conquered ships, etc. 

* Tacitus tells us that the Suevi carried about in spring 
processions a model of a liburna, or galley, and offered jt to 
Isis. Such a model was carried about in Germany in honor 
of Frey, and is found in the accounts of many German 

Fray's name is connected with agriculture and naviga- 
tion. Ziza, an old Teutonic goddess, was worshiped in a 
procession of boats. 

fin Inda, or Corneliminster, in Germany, in 1133, a ship 
was made in a grove, set on wheels, and dragged by weavers 
to the Rhine at Maestricht, where it was embarked, fitted 
with masts and taken up the Rhine, with festive processions. 

J The Council of Ulm prohibited such processions in 
1530, and that of Tubingen, in 1584. These boats were, 
however, carried about in procession at Mannheim in 1865. 

Similar processions were held in other places in the mid- 
dle ages. Thor was carried about by the Northmen in a 
ship. § A ship with sails set is still carried in Christmas 
processions in Siberia, with a figure of a saint seated on it. 

In 1825, they were carried about in processions in vari- 
ous cities in Belgium. || At Brussels, there is a festival called 
Ommegarde, where a few years ago, a ship was drawn 
about by horses, to commemorate a miraculous appearance 
of the Virgin in a boat, from Antwerp. 

Ships' models, carried by boys dressed as sailors, figure 
in a procession called the pardon of Guingamp, in Brittany. 

In many places, the ship is superseded by the plough. 
As Keary suggests, this is natural, and plough is etymo- 
logically connected with the Greek pious, a sailing. So the 
ships of the Eddas " plough the waves." 

Diego da Conto says the Siamese had an aquatic festival 
ini542, at the " turn of the waters." The king came out in 
his barge accompanied by a large number of boats, and the 
waters were " turned " with great noise and shouting, boat 
races terminating the festival. 

** Mohammedans of Bombay throw into the sea gilt-paper 
temples, in the festivals attendant on the Moharrum, or 

•Cox.— Aryan Mythology, B. II, Chap. II. 
t Grimm.— Teutonic Mj'tnology, Vol. I, p. 258. 
t Grimm.— Teut. Myth., Vol. I, p. 268. 
S Ralston.— Songs of the Russian People, p. 209. 
BSimrock. — Deutsche- Mythologie. 
"♦Housselot.— L'Inde et ees Bajahs. 





New Year. At the feast of Naryal Puranama, natives wade 
into the sea, throw cocoa-nuts into it, and invoke it, with 
prayers, to be favorable to voyagers. 

At St. Malo, near Manilla, a festival was held, about the 
beginning of this century, on November 26, in honor of St. 
Nicholas, when large floating structures, brilliantly illumi- 
nated, and filled with people, were seen on the river, and 
pieces of paper with votive sentences on them, were thrown 
in at the same time. 

The Chinese have several water festivals. On the fifth 
day of the fifth month,* long, light and narrow boats, made 
for the occasion, are pulled in races by forty or fifty men, 
and in the bows are three more, waving flags and beating 
drums, to frighten the dragon of the waters. The excite- 
ment is so great, that many boats are frequently overturned. 
It is said to have originated at the drowning of a certain cour- 
tier, Wat Yen, in 500 B.C. Another ceremony is described, in 
which his body is sought. Bamboo leaves, or silk bags filled 
with rice, are thrown into the water, gongs are beaten, and 
men in the bows of the boats stand throwing their arms 
about, and peering in the water for the appearance of the 

fin the rivers of China, Taouist priests, from the fifth 
to the fifteenth of the month, go about in boats, throwing 
bits of paper, rice and other vegetables into the water, and 
chanting requiems for the repose of the drowned. Lights 
are set adrift at night, to show the way to the souls of such 

I On the I St of August, boats from twenty to thirtj' feet 
long, made of bamboo, are born on the shoulders of men, in 
a night procession. These are preceded by men with 
torches, and others with gongs, etc., and followed by per- 
sons in grotesque costumes and masked faces. The boats 
are burned, and the ashes thrown into the sea, where they 
are supposed to carry certain diseases. 

A similar procession, in which paper boats and a dragon 
some two hundred feet long are carried, is held on the 22d 
of December, to the sailor goddess. Boats of bamboo and 
paper are carried in a procession in honor of the fire ele- 
mental gods. They are dragon-shaped, and in them are 
images with offerings of rice, salt, etc. 

* Doollttle,— Social Customs of Chinese, Vol. L 

i Grey. — China. 

♦Doollttle.— Sooial Cuitoma of the Chinese. 


" We left Siam, the second time, the 19th of June, 1687, 
upon a Chinese ship, bound for Ningpo. Although no 
measures were well taken, God gavfe us a successful vdy- 
age. The Chinese seemed to us very superstitious. They 
had a little idol on the poop of the vessel, before which 
'they kept, day and night, a lighted lamp. They often . 
offered it food prepared for their meals, before sitting 

down at their table The cult offered to this divinity did 

not stop there; as soon as the land hove in sight, he who 
had charge of the idol, taking some papers cut and 
painted like waves, cast them into the sea. When a calm 
overtook us, all the crew cried out loudly from time to 
time, as if to recall the wind. In bad weather, they cast 
feathers into the fire, to conjure the tempest, and to chase 
the demon away, which made a horrible odor over the 
vessel. But their zeal, or rather their superstition, re- 
doubled at sight of a mountain discovered in passing the 
coast of Cochin China; for, besides the ordinary genu- 
flections and inclinations, and all the half-burned paper, 
which they cast into the sea, the sailors commenced to 
make a vessel four feet long; it had masts, ropes, sails, 
streamers, compass, rudder, boat, guns, stores, cargo, and 
even a book of accounts. They arranged on poop and 
prow and in the rigging, as many little figures of painted 
paper as there were men in the vessel. They put this 
little image in a litter, and, raising it with much ceremony, 
they carried it about the ship, to the sound of a brass 
drum. A sailor dressed as a priest conducted the march, 
and fenced the air with a long stick, while he uttered loud 
cries. Finally, they lowered it into the sea, and followed 
it, as long as they could see it, with their eyes. The 
priest mounted the poop to continue his cries, and to 
wish it good voyage, apparently. 

It is with the ceremonious observances as with the sacri- 
fices, — they are addressed to the sea, or the sea-gods, to pro- 
pitiate them, and gain their favor. Prayers, vows and votive 
offerings are simple substitutions for sacrifices, and are 
devoted to the same end — that of gaining good winds and 
speedy voyages. 

parade Fontaney, Lettres Edi&antes et Cuxiengee, Lyons, 1819, Vol. IS. 400 ■ 
Manslne, June 1889. ^^ «~ , 




" Some days, like surly stepdames, adverse prove; 
Thwart our intentions, cross whate'er we love. 
Others, more fortunate and lucky shine. 
And, as a tender mother, bless what we design." ^ 

Hesiod. — Works and Days. 

" I should be still 
Plucking the grass to learn where sits the wind. " 

Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scetu j. 

HE belief of the seaman in the 
numerous deities of sea and 
wind, and his reliance on sacri- 
fices, prayers or other ceremo- 
nies to propitiate them, did not, 
at the same time, prevent him 
from having a firm belief in the 
operation of good or bad luck, and 
of omens warning him of danger or 
of success, while he also did not 
hesitate to use charms and amulets 
to bring about the desirable end. 

' Fortune brings in some boats that are not 

part and parcel of his creed, and many sea- 
men to this day are firm in these beliefs.f 
A belief in the virtues of odd numbers was very preva- 
lent, as shown in the usages of maritime nations with regard 
to salutes. All national, festal and personal salutes consist 
of an odd number of guns, a custom dating back to the be- 
ginning of modern history at least. 

I Teonge wrote, in 1676, " This day, being the day of our 

♦Cymbeline, Act IV, Scene 3. 

+See Cooper.— Hed Rover, Chaps. XIV and XV. 

t Voyages. 



king's marterdom, wee show all the signs of morning as pos- 
sible wee can, viz: our jacks and flags only half stafife 
high, and at 5 o'clock in the afternoon wee shot from 20 

Minute guns are still the only even-numbered salutes. 
We often find in folk-lore that three, seven and nine, and 
their multiples, are considered lucky. 

The traditional ill-luck of certain persons has. been par- 
tially shown in previous chapters. Priests were most feared 
of all, and it is not only unlucky to have them at sea, or to 
speak of them there, in many maritime lands,* but in sev- 
eral, it is a bad omen to meet them on shore when about to 
set out on a- voyage. He even brings bad luck to himself, 
for Arnanson f tells us Icelanders say you must leave the 
church-door open if the pastor goes out to row, or he may 
not return, nor should his books be aired during his absence. 

X Women shared in this ill-favor both on board ship, as 
we have seen, and on shore. § Firth of Forth fishermen say 
if they meet a barefooted woman with very flat feet, it por- 
tends bad luck. A Cornish fisherman said a woman met 
him every morning, and wished him good luck, but he never 
had any, so long as she did so. 

I Holinshead tells us, " Over against Rosse, on an isle 
named Lewis, sixtie miles in length, there is but one fresh 
river, and it is said that if- a woman wade through the same, 
there shall be no more salmon seen there for a twelvemonth 
afterward; whereas, otherwise, that fish is known to abound 
there in greate plentie." 

In the same island, a fisherman is sent out to the boats 
early in the morning, to see that worhen do not come down 
to them first, as there would then be no fish caught. 

The statement of Holinshead as to the beliefs concerning 
the river is confirmed by Martin,** who says the fishermen 
of Barras send a man early on May-day to see that no 
female crosses the stream first, as salmon would not then be 
found in it for a year. 

Women are unlucky in Cleveland, and other parts of 
England, f f In Sweden, if a woman steps over a fishing-rod, 
no fish will bite. 

• See Froude.— Short Studies, p. 59. 

+ Powell and Magnusson.— Icelandic Legends. 

tSee Chapter III. 

IJones.— Credulities, p. 116. 

I Chronicles ol Englandr Scotland and Ireland (1577). 

♦•Account of the Western Isles (1716). 

tt Jones.— Credulities, p. 134. 


Children, according to some, are unlucky on board Eng- 
lish ships, but others say they are considered fortunate.* 

f In certain Scotch fishing villages, many family names 
are unlucky. Rosse, CuUie and White are mentioned as 
such in one village. These men were not allowed on the 
water, if possible, and wages were sometimes refused them, 
if the catch were small. They were even thought to bring 
ill luck by looking at the boats or nets, and it was an unfort- 
unate omen to meet them first in the morning. It was the 
custom, in some villages, for an experienced man to rise 
early and prognosticate the weather. On one morning two 
of these unlucky ones happened to get up first, and soon 
met each other, but were so impressed with the ill-portent 
that each retired to his own home, and no one fished that day. 

J John Smith records that he was deemed a "Jonah " while 
on a -voyage to Rome. "They would never have fair 
weather while he (a heretic) was on board." 

§ English sailors bestowed upon Commdore Byron (1750) 
the name " Foul-weather Jack," from his proverbial bad luck 
at sea; and a similar epithet was applied to Sir John Norris. 
The curse of the Flying Dutchman was upon these, and 
bad weather followed them everywhere. 

This idea of personal luck probably led to the notion 
that a ship was safe, that carried some royal personage. 
So Caesar, when his pilot feared shipwreck, said, "Why 
fearest thou ? Caesar thou carriest! " 

II William Rufus was advised not to sail for France 
during a gale, but to wait for more favorable weather, for 
his campaign to Normandy. He answered; "I have ne.ver 
heard of a king that was shipwrecked. Weigh anchor, and 
you will see that the winds will be with' us." He lost his 
nephew Harry at sea, nevertheless. 

Henry II, embarking at Barfleur, and, seeing alarm at 
the state of the weather depicted on the faces of his 
courtiers, preferred rather to place his trust in God than to 
trust in kingly immunity. 

The address of Caesar to his pilot was graven on a medal 
of William III, who, when in a storm-tossed boat near 
Holland, said to his men, "How! should you think it hard 
to die with me?" 

* Hazlitt.— Popular Antiquitiesjof Great Britain. 

+ Gregor.— Folk-lore of Scotland. 

t Adventures and Discoveries of John Smith, p. 33; leprlnt, 1881. 

{ Brewer.— Reader's Hand-book. 

•Jones.— Credulities. 


William I, of Germany, in placing his steamboat at the 
disposal of a young couple on Lake Constance, said to a 
lady ivho was afraid to embark, "Do not be alarmed! the 
steamer bears my name, and that ought to reassure you." 

* We have also seen many instances of the ill-luck in the 
presence of animals on board ship, and also at times, when 
encountered on shore. Hares, as weather-bringers, were 
especially ill-omened. 

f An old Cornish writer says: "To talk of hares, or such 
uncanny things, proves as ominous to a fisherman as the 
beginning of a voyage on Candlemas day, to a mariner." 

Jin Forfarshire, England, fishermen would not go to 
sea if a hare crossed their path on their way to their boats. 
In Scotland, if the hare sat still, or ran toward the beach, it 
was not unlucky; but if she crossed the fishermen's path, he 
would catch no fish that day. 

The cat, another wind-bringer, was also an unlucky 
visitor on board ship. § Speaking of Norman fishermen, 
a writer says: "The fishermen decline to take in their 
boats many things, such as priests and cats." ||When the 
cat plays, it is always a sign of a gale, especially if it has an 
apron or a gown to play with. ** In Sweden, says a recent 
writer, "Sailors will not go to sea in a ship having a cat or 
a spinning-wheel on board." 

f f Somerset fishermen would not go to sea if they met a 
pig, while on their way to the boats. JJOne was once se- 
cretly introduced into a New Haven boat, but was immedi- 
ately thrown overboard, when discovered by the fishermen. 

§§ English and Scotch fishermen thought it unlucky to 
mention any four-footed animal at sea. " Brounger " was 
a name they could not bear to hear. In one boat, a lad 
spoke the word "horse," and the fishermen at once threw 
their nets overboard, refusing to fish. |{|{ Another incident is 
related, in which a boy says three forbidden words; — 
"There's a salmon-box on our weather bow. It would 
make a grand trough for our minister's pig." He narrowly 
escaped severe punishment from the enraged fishermen. 

♦Chapter III. 

+Carew. — Survey of Cornwall. 

i Jones. — Credulities, p. 116. 

S Bosquet.— La Normandie. 

I Jones.— Credulities, p. 119. 

*• Swedish Follt-Lore, Notes and Queries, December 6, 1888, 

++ Choice Notes, p. 27L 

tt Grant.— J^steries of all Nations, 593. 

jIGregor.— Folk-lore of Scotland. 

B Notes and Queries, October 4, 1881. 


*A dog anywhere near the nets or fishing-tackle brought 
ill-Iuclc to the Icelandic fishermen, nor did they like one in 
the boats. 

f Greenock fishermen say if a fly falls into a glass of 
water, it portends good luck. 

Jin Iceland, a spider, when hanging down by its web, 
must not be disturbed; but you must say to it, putting 
your hand under it, "Up, up, fishing-carl! your wife lies ill 
in her child-bed"; or, "Row up from below, fishing-carl, if- 
you betoken fair weather; row down, if you betoken foul." 

§ Fishermen at Santec, in Brittany, have a song, in 
which presages are drawn from actions of the cat. If it 
wipes the face with its paw, the omen is bad, and if it rubs 
the ear, the helmsman cannot steer. If it turns the back to 
the fire, the boat will upset, and if it burns its claws, the 
crew are lost. If it commences to purr, the omen is good. 

I Darwin says that when the surgeon of the Beagle 
killed ducks for sport, captive Fuegians said bad weather 
would certainly ensue. 

** Hindoo boatmen keep venomous serpents in their 
boats. If these are dull and irritable, they will not sail; but 
if they are lively and good-natured, it is thought a sign of 
an extremelj' lucky voyage. ,' 

ff In many Scotch villages it was deemed an unlucky 
venture to go to sea in any boat that had been overturned 
with loss of life. Such a boat would not be used again by 
the people of the village to which it belonged, although it 
might be purchased and used by another village. 

Sailors have long implicitly believed in the luck or ill- 
fortune of certain ships, and a volume of curious anecdotes 
might easily be gathered, relating to the subject. So recently 
as 1879,}^ a sailor was fined in an English court for refusing 
to go to sea in a vessel, in which he had shipped, and he 
alleged that he dreamed that she was lost, and feared to 
sail in her, as a previous dream of like import had proven 
true. Naval officers in our own service will call to mind a 
like occurrence concerning a man-of-war, lost afterwards. 

This unlucky character is thought to abide with the ship 

* Powell and Magnusson.— Icelandic Legends. 
+ Choice Notes, p. 347. 

i Powell and Magiiusson.— Icelandic Legends. 
§L. F. Sauve, in Melusine, January, 18S5. 
I Voyage of the Beagrle. 

»* De Feynes.— Voyage Jusque & la Cliine (1630), p. 207; M61usine, January. 

•H Gregor.— Folk-lore of Scotland, 
tf Jones.— Credulities, p. 67. 


from the first, and to pursue her name when bestowed on a^ 

" It was that fatal and perfidious bark, 
Built in the eclipse, and rigged with curses dark," 

says the Blind Poet.* 

f A fisherman, . in " Natasqua," says of a certain boat, 
" She's unlucky. She means mischief some day. There 
was a man killed at her launching, and the mark of the 
blood is on her bow." " If that's the case, there's no help 
for her," responds another. 

We have already alluded to the belief that a ship will 
always be unlucky, if any one is killed in launching her. 

Sometimes it is a whole letter of the alphabet that is 
affected by this unlucky character. It is often said, with 
reference to our own navy, that the letter 3' is an unlucky 
one, from the losses of the Suwanee, Sacramento, Saranac, 
San Jacinto, and many others. But a careful examination 
of the list shows that but one 5fth of the ships whose names 
begin with that letter have been lost. 

An old friend in Boston informs me that Dr. Bowditch, 
who was much consulted by underwriters, always declined 
to insure a ship whose name commenced with O, saying 
that such ships were an unlucky venture, that they were 
lost, their cargoes burned or damaged, and were in every 
wa3' unfortunate risks. 

It has been noted that the Royal George, and the Royal 
Charlotte, two English ships built at the same yard, and 
named after the reigning sovereigns, were both lost, with all 
on board. 

Sailors on board of one of our first Monitors feared to go 
to sea in tow of the " Rhode Island," because she had lost 
the original monitor. 

This belief in the good or evil luck of ships has had 
great influence in the choice of names. J Spanish sailors will 
not choose a secular name, as it is considered unlucky. So 
ancient Greeks seem to have avoided a masculine name, as 
all their ships bore feminine ones, probably in deference to 
Athene, goddess of the sea. 

So great is this prejudice against unlucky ships, that it is 
often difficult to get men officers, freight or passengers for 

* Milton.— Lycidas. 

■t Scribner's Monthly, Vol. I. 

i Sir Hugh J. Kose.— Spain. 


her. * Rockwell says, " Ship owners will rarely purchase a 
vessel which, by meeting with repeated accidents at sea, had 
proven to be unlucky." 

fA recent instance of this belief in the luck of ships is 
recorded in a daily paper. A man had fallen from the -top- 
mast-head of a lake vessel, and after that another, until the 
men began to believe the ship an unlucky one. On arriving 
at Buffalo, " the men went ashore as soon as they were paid 
off. They said the ship had lost her luck. While we were 
discharging at the elevator, the story got around, and some 
of the grain-trimmers refused to work on her. Even the 
mate was affected by it. At last we got ready to sail for 
Cleveland, where we were to load coal. The captain man- 
aged to get a crew by going to a crimp, who ran them in, 
■fresh from salt water. They came on board two thirds 
drunk, and the mate was steering them into the forecastle, 
when one of them stopped and said, pointing' aloft, ' What 
have you got a figurehead on the masthead for?' The mate 
looked up and then turned pale. 'It's Bill,' he said, and 
with that the whole lot jumped on to the dock. I didn't 
see anything, but the mate told the captain to look for 
another officer. The captain was so much affected, that he 
put me on another schooner, and then shipped a new crew 
and sailed for Cleveland. He never got there. He was 
sunk by a steamer off Dunkirk." 

Another instance is given in an account of the loss of a 
vessel whose name w^as three times changed, without losing 
her unluck)' character. 

I "The steamer with the pretty name of lanthe, was for- 
merly the Rose, and before she was the Rose she was that 
most ill-fated ship which, if 'not built in the eclipse,' was 
certainly attended with 'curses dark,' the Daphne, whose 
launch on the Cl3'de, it will be recollected, caused the 
drowning of an appalling number of men. She sank in the 
Clyde as the Daphne; she was raised, and then sank in 
Portrush harbor as the Rose; she was raised again, and 
still, as the Rose, she ran ashore on Big Cumbrae. Then 
she was got off and lost sight of for a little, and now reap- 
pears as the lanthe, comfortably lodged on the mud which 
she seems to love so well, and to which her instincts regu- 
larly direct her, after having threatened to go down in deep 

•Sketches of Foreign Travel (1847). 

•t Chicago Times^ March. 1885. 

t London Tdegraph, February, 1885. 


water, and then changing her mind and plumping on a rocK. 
She is evidently an unlucky ship. Common sense must 
yield to superstition, and partake of the sailor's view of such 
a vessel as this." 

* In Pomerania, stolen wood is employed in building a 
ship, a small piece being inserted in the keel. Such wood 
makes the ship go faster at night. If the first blow struck 
in fashioning the keel draws fire, the ship will be lost on 
her first trip. A piece of silver, preferably an old coin, is 
placed under the heel of the mast of a new ship, as then she 
will make profitable voyages. 

f In Iceland, it is deemed unlucky to use the wood of a 
certain tree, called sorb, in building ships. When used for 
such purposes, the ship will sink, unless willow or juniper 
wood is used with it, to counterbalance its ill influence, as 
they are inimical woods. 

There are also many things connected with the belong- 
ings of ships that bring evil or good luck. 

Jit was long thought unlucky, on board of English ships, 
to turn a hatch cover upside down, or to lose a bucket or 
swab overboard. 

§ Seamen think it a misfortune to lose or tear the colors, 
and it was unlucky in English ships to sew sails on the 
quarter deck. 

To hand anything through a ladder is equally unlucky. 
II Grant tells an anecdote of a ship-captain, who greatly 
offended a sailor, by passing him a mug of beer through a 

Folk-lore traditions say any one passing under a ladder 
on shore will be hanged. 

** When a basin is turned upside down, fishermen in the 
south of England will not go to sea. 

JjAubin says the Dutch, in the fifteenth century, deemed 
it lucky if a ship, when laden, heeled to starboard, but un- 
lucky, if to port, and Melville says whalers used to think it 
a lucky circumstance if they had a sperm whale's head at the 
starboard yard-arm, and a right whale's on the port side, as 
the ship would then never capsize. 

* Tenne. — ^Volkssagen axis Pommern^ p. 346, in M6lusine, January, 1865. 
tMaurer. — Islandische Sagen, IV. 2. 

t Jones. — Broad, Broad Ocean, p. 287. Brand.— Popular Antiquities, p. 2i0. 
Ha2iitt.— Popular Antiquities of Great Britain. 
8 Grant.— Mysteries, p. 385. 
8 Grant. — Mysteries, p. 593. 
** Jones.— Credulities, p. 115. 
+t Eenard.— MerveUles de L'Art Naval. 


* Among West India boatmen, overturning the calabash 
used to bail out the boat is unlucky, as the boat will certainly 
be upset. 

There are many actions not to be performed at sea, or 
among sailors or fishermen. 

f Sneezing has been regarded by people in all ages, and 
in all lands, as unfortunate. It was long a custom Lo salute 
one who sneezed, to remove the bad results thought to 
ensue therefrom. 

Among Baltic fishers and mariners, it is still thought 
unlucky, on Christmas Day, Greeks and Romans thought 
a sneeze to the right hand lucky, to the left unlucky.J 
Themistocles is said to have conceived a good opinion of the 
result of a naval engagement in which he was about to 
participate, by a sneeze to the right, just as he was about to 
sacrifice to the gods. § Timotheus, on the contrary, would 
not sail because he heard a sneeze to the left of him. 
II Shetlanders still prognosticate the weather by sneezing. 

Spitting to windward, prohibited for obvious reasons, in 
well regulated ships, was considered unlucky among Maldive 
Islanders. Chinese Junk sailors considered it unlucky, and 
a forerunner of fowl weather, to expectorate over the bows 
of the vessel, when starting on a voyage. Saliva has, how- 
ever, generally been regarded as curative, and fishermen in 
** England often " spit on the hansel " for luck — a custom 
not yet extinct among schoolboys in our own land, while 
■ff Peruvian fishermen put chewed coco on their hooks for a 
similar reason. JJIn Germany, any one spitting on a pot- 
hook, and calling the devil by name, gets plent)' of fish. 

§§ Baltic seamen and fishermen held that you should not 
quarrel about the catch of fish, or envy another's luck, or 
your own would leave you. On the contrar}', Esthonian 
fishermen thought it an extremely lucky thing to get up a 
quarrel with some member of the family, before setting out 
on their fishing trips. They often locked up store-rooms, 
overturned kettles, or committed some similar act, to irritate 
the housewife. Blows were extremely lucky, and, it was 
said, brought three fish for each one. 

* Branch.— W. I. Superstitions, Cont. Rev. October, 188L 
tTj-lor.— Primitive Culture, Vol. I, p. 97. 

tRenard. — Les Merveilles de L'Ai-t Nsval, p. 286. 

S Jal.— Oloesaire Nautlque. Etei'nuraent. 

I Nautical Mag^azine, 1870. 

** Grose. — Antiquities of Great Britain. 

ttDorman. — Primitive Superstitions, p. 295. 

a Folk-lore Record, 1879. 

5S Thorpe.— Xorthem Mythology, Vol. II, p. 275. 



In Iceland, fishermen will not sing at the line, nor dredge 
with a net, as it is unlucky. Scotch fishermen think bor- 
rowed nets and fishing tackle bring luck.* This was also 
true in England, and in Sweden,f where also it was said 


that pins found in church m^de the best fish-hooks. Indians 
prefer a hook that has caught fish, and never put two nets 
together, as thej'' would be jealous. 

*Fraser's Magazine.— "Vol. LVII, p. 353. 
tAfzelius.— Svenska Polkets Sagen. 


* Pomeranians say you must not throw overboard a 
burning coal, or you will have a storm. So, when the wind 
is contrary, you must not sew or mend anything, or you 
sew up the wind. In a good breeze, you can do it, for then 
you keep it. You should not even speak of the wind when 
it is good, for it will then change, and even resents any 
fears as to its permanency. It is most risky to calculate 
when a good breeze will carry you in, as then it is sure to 

Fishermen work all night before Easter, Pentecost, or 
Ascension Day, believing it especially lucky. They decline 
to tell the number of fish caught, or at least must understate 
the catch. 

f Spanish sailors regard it as unlucky to place the left 
ioot on shore first, or to enter a boat left foot first. They 
also say it is unlucky for a sailor's wife to put a broom 
behind the door, with the brush up, during her husband's 
absence at sea. 

J When Irish sailors passed a little island, Mac-Dara, they 
wet their sails three times in the water, to insure a good 

§ Marriages are unlucky among Scotch fishermen, bring- 
ing a tempest with each ceremony, and it is equally unfor- 
tunate to have eggs on board the boats. 

II Breton fishermen became angry, if wished a good voy- 
age on setting out. 

** Swedish fishermen also thought it unlucky for strangers 
to see how^ many fish they had, or to tell any one the num- 
ber of the catch, or the locality of the fishing-ground. 

ff Scotch fishermen were equally unwilling to tell the 
number of fish caught, and considered it extremely unlucky 
to be asked where they were going. JJ It was also unlucky 
for anyone to point at the boats with the finger, or to count 
them, or the fishermen while standing. 

§§ English fishermen say that if you count your fish, you 
will catch no more, and Scotchmen would refuse to sell the 
first fish of a catch to a person with broad thumbs. |||| White 

*Teiuie. — Volkssagen aus Pommern, pp. 3i7, 848, q. in Melusine. 

+ Guichot.— Supereticiones Populares, p. 299, in Mfiiusine, January, 1885. 

t Folk-lore Journal, II, 259. 

§ Gregor. — In Melusine, January, 1885. 

B L. F. Sauve, in Melusine, Januarys, 1S85. 

*• Thorpe.— Northern Mythology, vol. m, p. 111. 

+t Jones. — Credulities, p. 117. 

tt Jones. — Credulities, p. 119. 

68 Jones. — CreduUties, p. 116. 

II Gregor.— Folk-lore of Scotland. 


Stones must not be taken as ballast, nor those bored by cer- 
tain animals, known as "hunger-steen," and it was thought 
unlucky for boats to touch the salmon cobble. 

* Maurer says no ship will sail from Malmsey to Dran- 
gey in Iceland, in the spring, without carrying three stones, 
to be obtained by a stop at Thordarhof. In the same 
Island, if a stone is cast over a ship, it will cause her to cap- 
size as soon as she gets to sea. 

f A heap" of stones on a hill near Weston-super-Mare, in 
England, should receive an additional stone from each fish- 
erman passing it on his way to the sea. 

On New Year's day in Scotland, it was especially lucky 
to catch the first fish, or at least to draw blood first. A cor- 
respondent of " Notes and Queries" says: "Wife beating to 
the effusion of blood may be a novel method of securing 
luck in the herring fishery, but to ' draw blood ' is practiced 
in some of the fishing villages on the north coast of Scotland, 
under the belief that success follows the act. This act must 
be performed on New Year's day, and the good for- 
tune is his only- who is the first to shed blood. If the morn- 
ing of the New Year is such as to allow the boats of the 
village to put to sea, there is quite a struggle which boat 
will reach the fishing-ground first, so as to gain the coveted 
prize — the first-shed blood of the year. If the weather is 
unfavorable for fishing, those who are in possession of a 
gun, are out, gun in hand, along the shore, before daybreak, 
in search of some bird, no matter how small, that they may 
draw blood, and thus make sure of one year's good fortune." 

The captain of a Newfoundland " banker " still casts a pen- 
ny over the bow for luck, when starting on a fishing voyage. 

When Greenock whalers left port, it was formerly a cus- 
tom to throw old shoes after them, for luck. The same 
custom was also observed at Whitby, England. J Boatmen 
in Canton say you should not put your shoes on the deck 
bottom upward, or the boat will capsize. 

§ To see a flat footprint in the sand before embarking, 
boded ill luck to the English-fisherman. 

II At the present day, the whale-fishers of Scotland, be- 
fore leaving harbor, often burn effigies, to promote a lucky 

* lalandlsche Sa^en. 

+ Choice Notes, p. 175. 

t Folk-lore Kecord, Vol. III. 

S Jones. — Credulities, p. 11.7. 

I Grant.— Mysteries of all Nations. 


* Rockwell says it was thought ill-luck to hear a death- 
march played by fife and drum on board of a men-of-war, 
in 1847, and some officers would not allow it, saying that 
death would certainly follow. 

There is often but one way to turn a boat, among sailors 
and fishermen, f Orkney fishermen say it must go with 
the sun, i.e. from left to right, and J Swedish boatmen will 
not turn the boat with the prow toward the shore. In 
Scotland, where witches went viiddersJiins, or from right to 
left, around the cauldron, a boat must be turned deiseal, or 
with the sun.§ "On going to sea, they would reckon them- 
selves in the most imminent danger^ were they by accident 
to turn their boat in opposition to the sun's course." 

Many of these beliefs with regard to luck were connected 
with articles of food. 

I A loaf of bread should not be turned upside down, said 
fishermen in the north of England, for a ship would be lost 
for ever}' loaf so placed. 

Sunderland wives see that their husbands take some 
bread, baked on Good Friday, with them,. to avoid ship- 

** At St. Michael, a piece of cake, eaten at a certain festi- 
val, is saved for each absent sailor, and is placed in a cup- 
board, carefully wrapped in a fine napkin. If a storm 
appear it is regarded as unlucky to find the cake dried up. 

So in the Isle of Man, in 1700, no seaman would sail 
without salt in his" pocket, and fishermen in the Tweed 
salted their nets for luck, and threw some of it in the sea 
to blind fairies, as late as 1879. Bags of it were hung in 
temples, on Pescadore island, saj's Archdeacon Gray, as 
offerings by mariners. Salt was an ingredient of holy 
water, ever powerful over the waves. Mariners of 1600 
swore by bread and salt, and threw some of the latter into 
the sea. English seamen think it unlucky to throw it 

f f In Holland, it was thought unlucky to overturn a salt- 
cellar, as a ship would be wrecked each time it was done. 

JJRice was long regarded with ill-favor. Sailors called 

♦Sketches of Foreign Travel (1847). 

+lHazlitt. — Popular Antiquities of Great Britain. 

t Jones. — CYedulities. 

iSir J. Sinclair.— Statistical Account of Scotland, in Brand, III, 148. 

B Henderson- — Folk-lore of the ;Vot-tlierii Couuties of England, 120. 

" Bulletin of a Morbihan Socictj- q. in MeluSine, Jan. 188^ 

+t Choice Notes, p. 1. 

a Hazlltt. — Popmar Antiquities of G reat Britain, 


it "strike-me-blind," and there was a tradition that its 
continuous use caused blindness. 

Icelanders regarded it as unlucky to eat the liver of a 
seal. Chinooks will not eat the heart of a fish at all. 
* Dutch fishermen eat no meat on Easter Sunday. fCor- 
nishmen eat fish from the tail toward the head, so as to 
turn the fishes' heads toward the shore. 

Fishermen in many parts of the world have tabooed 
words that must not be used at sea. We have already seen 
instances of this in speaking of animals, and also when 
treating of the- ill-luck of priests. You should not wish 
a Swedish fisherman "good-luck," and Scotch fishermen 
do not like to have women wish them the same. Many 
family names, especially those of unlucky persons, must 
not be spoken at sea. This odd belief has led to the crea- 
tion of many curious sea-words in Shetland and Scotland, 
where many circumlocutory words and phrases are used, to 
avoid the objectionable ones. J The sea was held in such 
dread in Shetland, that it must not be named. Blind says 
it was called "Holy toyt," and the ca^ (which he says was 
the sea) was called Kasirt, Footie, or Saistal. 

§ Swedish fishermen will not pronounce the name of a 
seal, but call it "brors lars"; and regard it as equally 
unfortunate to pronounce the name of an island toward 
which they may be sailing. 

By far the greater part of sailor beliefs and usages in 
regard to luck is applied the luck or ill-luck of certain days. 
This idea of a choice of time, with regard to its influence 
on any undertaking, is not new, nor is it confined to the 
seaman alone. From antiquitj' the Dies Nefasti, or jCgypti- 
cm^ were known and regarded, and they still have their 
believers in many places. 

" By the Almanack, I think 
To choose good days and shun the contrairie," 

has been believed by many. 

II Hazlitt quotes an old English manuscript: 

" Yt be observed by some old writers, chiefly the canon 

astrologicum, who did alledge yt there were twenty-eight 

'Thorpe.— Northern Mythology. Vol. Ill, p. 33. 
i Hunt. — Konmnces and Drolls of the West of England, p. 148. 
i Blind.— New Finds in Shetland and Welsh Follt-lore. Gentleman's Mag- 
azine. 1S83. 

SMoman. — De Superstit. hodiernis (1752), In Meluslne, January, 1885. 
1 Popular Antiqluties of Great Britain. 


days in the yeare, which were revealed by the Angel 
Gabriel to good Joseph, which ever have been remarked 
to be very fortunate dayes either to perrge, to let blood, 
cure wounds, use marchandizes, sow seed, plant trees, 
build houses, or take journees in long or short voyages, in 
fighting or giving of bataille," etc. 

* Another old work tells us: "There are fifty-three days, 
in the year, in which it is dangerous to undertake jour- 
neys," etc. 

f Chief among these unlucky days were Cain's birthday 
(first Monday in April), the anniversary of the destruction 
of Sodom and Gomorrah (second Monday in August), and 
December 31, when Judas hanged himself. 

We are told in an early account of the Orkney Islands: 
"In many days, they will neither go to sea in search of fish, 
nor perform any sort of work at home." 

JShakspeare says of a lucky day, — 

" But on this day let seamen fear no wreck." 

Saadi, the Persian poet, relates the following illustrative 
anecdote: " Some slaves were fishing, when one lost his net. 
Being reproved, he said: 'Oh, brothers, what can I do! 
Seeing that it was not my lucky day, and the fish had some 
days remaining.' The moral given is, 'A fisherman without 
luck cannot catch fish in the Tigris.' " 

It was long thought unlucky to la}' the keel or launch 
the ship on certain evil days, or even to f^U the wood. 

§ Hesiod says of the 17 th, — 

" In the same day, and when the timber's good, 
Fell for the bed-post and the ship, the wood." 

Man}' da}-s were unfortunate as sailing days, and sailors 
in many countries have for ages paid particular regard to 
this. As to Friday, we will speak more fully hereafter. 
II Forbes says Hindoo vessels will not sail on unlucky days. 
** Br3'ant saj's the ancients thought it unluck)' to sail at the 
heliacal rising of the Pleiades or Doves. "The dove was 
regarded as a fortunate omen to navigators. 

Saints' days and church holidays were generally unfort- 

»Book of Presidents (precedents), 1666. 

+ Jones. — Credulities, p. 111). 

tKing John. Act HI, scene L 

§ Works and Days. 

I Oriental MemcSrs. 

*" Indent Mythology. 


unate. *Cornishnien say Candlemas is a bad day to put to 
sea. All-Hallow eve and All Saints' day were holidays 
among French fishermen, f Those who went to sea on the 
latter day were said to see double, and in the nets they 
would have nothing but a skeleton and a winding-sheet. 
The superstition that a spectral bark with the souls of those 
drowned at sea would come on that night, has been alluded 
to.J It was also said that a car was heard at midnight, 
drawn by eight white horses, and having eight white dogs 
ahead of it. Voices of sailors drowned during the year were 
heard, and any one seeing it, was doomed to die. 

§ Baltic fishermen would not set their nets between All 
Saints' and St. Martin's days, or on St. Blaise's day. 

Fishermen on Lewis Island do not go out to their work 
on St. Blaise's day. St. Peter's day Qune 26) was ob- 
served as a holiday by many fishermen. || Finns used to say 
that any one making a disturbance on St. George's^day 
would encounter storms and disasters. No fishing is done 
in Sweden, on Christmas, but the nets are set that night for 
luck. Abraham Brahe, in his Tankebok, says (December 
24, 1618): **"On this Christmas eve, God granted me a 
glorious haul of fish." At Ofveds' Kloster, it was the practice 
of the peasants, every Christmas eve, to go by torchlight 
and fish for their Christmas supper — first invoking the aid 
of the demon who lived at the bottom of the lake. 

If O'Reilly embodies in the following lines a superstition 
prevalent in Ireland; 

' Upon St. Martin's eve, no net shall be let down; 
No fisherman of Wexford shall, upon that holy day. 
Set sail, orcastaline within the scope of Wexford Bay. " 

A further legend says some men who violated this rule 
were visited by a demon, and never reached the shore again. 

Many days of the month were marked as evil ones among 
sailors. In an old almanac,^ we find that the 19th, 20th, 
24th and 31st of July are marked " No good Anchorage." 

§§ In an old manuscript, we read that the Saxons believed 

•Jones. — Credulities, p. 110. 
+ Jones. — Credulities, p. 107. 
tSee Chapter EX- 
I Jones.— Credulities, p. 108. 
i Jones.— Broad, Broad Ocean, p. 240. 
"Jones.— Broad, Broad Ocean, p. 239. 
++ Songs of the Southern Seas. 

tt A Ne we Aimanaoke of Prdgnoaiication of the year of our Lord God, leifi.— 
Saxon Leecbdom^, eta. 

§S Saxon Leechdonig and Wortcunnlng. 



the seventh day of the month good for fishing, the eleventh, 
for killing whales, walrus, etc., and the twelfth, good to go 
to sea. 

Hazlitt sa)'s tempests were thought to come on the 
thirteenth of the month, and many sailors would not go to 
sea on that day. 

Hesiod enumerates the days in which certain tasks may 
be performed by sailors: 

* " The fourth, upon the stocks thy vessel lay, 
Soon with light keel to skim the watery way. " 

And on the twenty-ninth, 

' ' And on thy dark ocean way 
Launch the oar'd galley — few will trust the day." 

He enumerates as unlucky the 4th, 5th, 13th, r6th, 19th 
and 24th. 

Sunday has generally been thought a lucky day to sail or 
to fish, perhaps on the principle that "the better the day, 
the better the deed." In Scotland and England, it is re- 
garded as a lucky day for sailors and fishermen, f At 
Preston-Pans, England, it was a favorite day to sail for the 
fishing-grounds, up to a recent date. Of the Isle of Man we 
read: J" Fishers would not go out Saturday night or Sun- 
day. § A tradition existed that during one Sunday evening, 
when boats were out fishing, a great storm came up and 
destroyed many boats." {| Bishop Hall says of his supersti- 
tious man, '' He will never set out to sea except on Sunday." 
** If an Icelander's seal-skins be mended with thread and 
needle on Sunday, he will be drowned. 

Concerning Monday, nautical tradition is silent, so it 
may be accredited an ordinarily lucky day. As to Tuesday, 
Spanish sailors seem to have regarded it as unluck}-, judg- 
ing from the proverb " El Martes, ne te casas, ne te embar- 
ques, ne de te mujer apartarse" (Tuesday, don't marry, go 
to sea, or leave your wife). 

A Saxon MS. in the Cotton Library reads :f'|: "If the 
kalends of January fall on a Tiwesday, ships abroad are in 

• Works and Days. 

+ Choice Not«N p. 271. 

JEobertson.— Isle ot Man (\~n). 

f Jones.— Broail, Broad Ocean, p. 241. 

I Characters of Virtue and of vice. 

** Powell and Jlagnusson.— Icelandic legends. 

+t Hampton.— Medil JEri Kalendarlum. 


Ancient Irish chronicles record that a certain king was 
not allowed to sail on a marauding expedition on Tuesday, 
or to go in a ship the Monday after Bealtaine (May-day). 

Wednesday was consecrated to Odin, who, as Hnickar, 
was the Northern mariner's chief deity. Hence it was a 
lucky day to undertake a voyage. And so with Thursday, 
which was also dedicated to a favorite deity (Thor) with 
the Northern warlike mariner. 

Saturday seems also to have generally borne a good 
character. But we are told in an old English work,* " Cer- 
tayne craftsmen will nocht begin their worke on Satterday; 
certain schipmen or mariniers will not begin to sail on the 
Satterday — quhilk is plane superstition." 

But Friday is of aJl days the one proverbially unlucky 
for sailors. Its bad character on shore is well known, and 
we should not wonder that it also obtained such at sea. 

As Marryat says of one of his heroes: "His thoughts 
naturally reverted to the other point, in which seafaring men 
are equally bigoted, the disastrous consequences of sailing 
on a Friday; the origin of which superstition can easily be 
traced to early Catholicism, when, out of respect for the day 
of universal redemption, they were directed by their pastors 
to await the 'morrow's sun.' " 

Southey says, " Many a ship has lost the tide which might 
have led to fortune, because the captain and crew thought 
it unlucky to sail on Friday." 

The earliest account of this superstition that I find is in 
the "Itinerary" of Fynes Moryson (1553), who, speaking of 
the king of Poland at Dantzig, says: f " The next daj' the 
king had a good wind, but before this, the king and the queen, 
whilst sometimes they thought Monday, sometimes Friday, 
to be unlucky days, had lost many fair winds." 

I Cooper says of a certain hero: "As for sailing on Friday, 
that was out of the question. No one did that in 1798, 
who could help it." Brand tells that a London merchant 
said, in 1790, that no one would begin any business or voy- 
age on Friday. 

§ Thatcher writes, in 1821: " Seldom would a seaman then 
sail on Friday." And Cheever, in 1827: "He (the sailor) will 
never go to sea on Friday, if he can help it." 

* Hamilton's Catechism, 1551, 22-25, in Jones' Ciedolities, p. 110. 

+ In Brand.— Popular Antiquities, Vol. in. 


9 Superstitions. 


*01mstead also writes, in 1841: "There has been a sin- 
gular superstition prevalent among seamen about sailing on 
Friday; and in former times, to sail on this day would have 
been regarded as a violation of the mysterious character of 
the day, which would be visited with disaster upon the 
offender. Even now, it is not entirely abandoned; so if a 
voyage, commenced on Friday, happens to be unfortunate, 
all the ill luck of the voyage is ascribed to having sailed on 
that day. An intelligent shipmaster told me that, although 
he had no faith in this superstition, yet so firmly were sail- 
ors formerly impressed with superstitious notions respect- 
ing the day, that, until within a few years, he should never 
have ventured to sail on a Friday, for the men would be 
appalled by dangers which they would think light of on 
common occasions." 

f Chaplain Rockwell says there were, in 1847, command- 
ers in our navy who would not sail on Friday, and who 
would try to sail on Sunday. Officers have been known to re- 
fuse to begin a tour of duty on that day, in joining a new ship. 

I Wellesley, earl of Dundonald, got under weigh on Fri- 
day, in 1848, but was recalled by the port admiral, and did 
not sail until the next day. This was in order to take a 
supplementary mail, but the crew firmly believed the admi- 
ral did it to avoid sailing on Friday. 

Lord Littleton said he knew a naval officer who instantly 
quitted a room where thirteen happened to be, on Frida)'. 
Byron thought it an unlucky daj^, but sailed for Greece on 
Friday, and lost his life there. 

§An assistant at a bathing machine in Scarborough, Eng- 
land, told a correspondent of '" Notes and Queries " that most 
accidents happened on Friday, and especially on Good Fri- 
day. He had not worked on the latter da)' for years, nor 
would he do so. 

It is still thought an unlucky day to sail in Suffolk, 
England. |{ The Registrar General of Scotland reported, 
not many years ago, that many less ships sailed on Friday 
than on any other daJ^ 

** In Welsh folk-lore, the fairies rule on that day, and 
especially control the water, making it rough and stormy. 

* Notes of a Whaling Voyage. 

+ Sketches of Foreign Travel (lg47). 

t Jones.— Credulltie8, p. 109. 

I Jones.— Credulities, p. 107. 

I Grant.— Mysteries, p. 398. 

"Slkes.— British Goblins «tnd Welsh.Folk-lore. 


Spaniards deem it unlucky to sail on Friday, and Italians 
say, " Venerdi, non si sposa, non si parte" (Friday, don't 
marry, don't travel). * In Russia, St. Friday, or Mother 
Friday, is personified, and any work, especially washing and 
ironing, done that day, will offend her, and be unlucky, fin 
Wallachia, it is a woman's holiday, and you must not work 
with steel or a pointed needle. 

I Finn .and Breton sailors deem it an unlucky day to 

§ Gloucester fishermen still believe it an unlucky thing 
to sail on Friday. || Brewer says, however, regarding 
this day: "In America, Friday is said to be a lucky day, and 
many of their greatest political events have been consum- 
mated on that day." 

Columbus sailed on Friday, discovered land on Friday, 
and the Pilgrims landed on the same day, on which also 
Washington was born. 

Friday was also linked with the mermaid superstitions. 
Under certain circumstances the apparition of a mermaid 
was a favorable omen to the seaman; and a tempest-tossed 
vessel, " spoken " by a mermaid on a Friday, would assuredly 
reach her destined harbor in safety. The superstition is 
well illustrated by an old ballad of the sea, — 

" On a Friday morning we set sail, 
And our ship was not far from land, 
When there we saw a pretty fair maid. 
With a comb and a glass in her hand, brave boys." 

**Another version of the ballad makes the vision unlucky. 

The following sailor-ditty illustrates the evil effects of 
sailing on this day, and also introduces a story that has 
been extensively circulated among nautical writers: 

" On a Friday she was launched. 
On a Friday she set sail, 
On a Friday met a storm, 
And was lost too in a gale." 

f f Ralston tells this tale of the English admiralty, Cooper 
of a Connecticut ship builder, Rockwell of the American 

• Balston. — Songs of the Russian People. 

tHalstOB.— Russian Folk-lore, 199. 

t Drake.— Legends of New England. 

JL. F. Sauv^.— Melusine, January, 1882. 

I Reader's Hand-Book. 

"See Chapter IV. 

+t Songs of the Russian People. _ 


marine, while * Thatcher gives it no particular home. The 
stor)' is, that the keel of a ship was laid on Friday, she was 
launched on Friday, named Friday, commanded by Captain 
Friday, sailed on Friday, and was lost on Friday — some 
say was never heard from after a certain Friday. 

f A writer in " Harper " tells the same story as among the 
traditions of Wilmington, Delaware, in its palmy shipping 
days, but there are amusing variations. The keel is laid on 
Friday, although the builder's wife dreamed it was bad 
luck. It was launched on Friday, christened for that day, 
and sent to sea in command of Captain Friday. Just a 
week from that time, it was seen foundering at sea. The 
wife, when she heard of it, said: "I told thee so, Isaiah! 
This is all thy sixth-day doings. Now thee sees the con- 
sequences. Thee never had the vessel insured." 

Many instances are told of disasters on Friday, strength- 
ening the sailor in his belief. The English ship "Captain" 
sailed on Friday, and was lost with her great crew. It is 
said the admiralty did not venture to send the next ship 
sailing after her loss, the Agincourt, to sea on that fatal day. 

I The Amazon, a West India packet, the troop-ship Bir- 
kenhead, and the packet Golden Gate, sailed on this unlucky 
day, and were lost, with great sacrifice of life. 

The United States ship Idaho left New York, on a cruise 
to China, on Friday, much to the disgust of the old sailors. 
Three weeks afterward, a fire broke out in the after maga- 
zine, and this was accredited to her sailing on Frida)', and 
her subsequent encounter with a terrific typhoon, and the 
loss of her sails and spars, were cited as confirmatory facts. 

The ill-fated Huron sailed on Friday, and this list could 
be extended at will. 

Friday undoubtedly got its bad name among christians 
from its being the daj"^ of the crucifixion. Char-Freitag, or 
"sad Friday," is the German name for Good-Frida}-. It is 
named after Freya,a Norse goddess powerful at sea, and, in 
southern tongues, after her prototype Venus. Both these 
are goddesses of love, and women being so unlucky at sea, 
this day, consecrated to the female deities, would also be 

Omens have been seen, in many pages of this work, to 
affect the sailor's estimate of the future,and to influence his 

* Superstitions.— 1837. 

+ H. Pyle.— Harper's >fonthl}', January, 1880. 

% Grant.— Mysteries, p. 398. 


actions to a remarkable extenf. Such omens were univer- 
sally regarded in antiquity. The pilot says to Csesar — 

* " A thousand omens threaten from the skies, 
A thousand boding signs my soul affright. " 

f The Grecian fleet at Mycale was only induced to engage 
the Persians, by the favorable omen of propitious sacrifices. 
J A Basque poet says, — 

' ' The boatmen, ere his sail he spreads, 
Watched for an omen there," 

and Triptolemus says of Shetland boatmen: §" They are aye 
at sic trash as that, when you want a days' work out of 
them — they have stepped ower the tangs, or they have met 
an uncanny body, or they have turned about against the 
sun, and there is naught to be done that day." 

These omens were derived from various sources. Promi- 
nent among these were the meteorological indications, 
numerous examples of which we have «;een, in speaking of 
the wind-raisers. Clouds, skj^ wind, waves, etc., were 
eagerly watched for such signs as were thought to indicate 
the course to be pursued, to gain success in any endeavor. 

Lightning was thought by the ancients to be an evil por- 
tent. I Cabrias, the Athenian general, feared to engage in 
a sea-fight, because of intense lightning, and postponed 
sailing against the enemy. 

** Eclipses of the sun and moon were also dire portents 
of evil, and Virgil has been quoted in a previous chapter as 
testifying to their influence on the mariners of antiquity. 
If Nicias lost his liberty and his life, because he failed to sail 
in support of the Athenians, having been delayed by the 
bad omen of an eclipse. JJ In Iceland, a crescent moon with 
the horns turned toward the earth, indicates a wreck during 
that moon. 

To the legions of Aulus P-lautius, when about to invade 
Great Britain, in 43 A.D., there was a happy omen shown 
by a meteor moving toward the fleet. 

§§ Fishermen in Kerry, Ireland, will not go to sea until 

• RoTve.— Lucan's Pharsalia. 

t Herodotus.— History. 

t Webster.— Basque Legends. 

§Sir W. Scott.— Notes to Pirate. 

I Jal. — Glossaire Nautique, Augures. 

*»Tylor.— Primitive Culture, Vol. II., p. aT). 

ft Jurien de la Gravl^re. La Marine des Anciens, 1880. 

%± Powell and Magnusson. — Icelandic Legends. 

g« Notes to Hayes' '" Ballads of Ireland." 


the first star appears. In Wiesland, if clouds come from 
the sea on St. George's day, fish are sure to be abundant 
that year. 

* Aubrey says Charles II sailed for France from Ports- 
mouth, when a storm came up, and the ship put back. Sun- 
shine and calm then intervened, but when the king again 
embarked, a second gale appeared. It was deemed a bad 

f In an account of the shipwreck of the England of 
Newcastle, the narrator says they saw an aurora borealis 
in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, of a yellow and orange color, 
and all thought it portended violent tempests, but none 
came for som.e days. 

I Bede says he had remarked the sparkling of the sea, 
and thought it a portent of storms. 

§ It was said in Cornwall that the defeat of the English 
fleet by the Dutch was foretold by a rain of blood on the 
stones of St. Denis' church. 

Tacitus says the seas were blood-red, and that human 
forms were cast on shore, just before the war between the 
Romans and the Britons, 60 A.D. 

I We also read, in the account of the transfer of St. Cuth- 
bert's body: "And being vpon the sea in a shippe, by myri- 
cle marveillous, iij waves of water were turned into blood." 
A storm ensued. 

** Jones quotes from a Cottonian MS., concerning a 
stream in Yorkshire, where, when the waves were quiet, 
" there is a horrible groninge, heard from that creek, at the 
least six m}'les in the mayneland, that the fishermen dare 
not put forth, though thyrste of gain drive them on, hould- 
ing an opinion that there is a greedie beaste, raging for 
hunger, and designs to be satisfied with men's carcasies." 

ff On our own coast, a recent writer tells us: " The raging 
sounds of the rising or falling of the sea are tokens that 
presage disaster or good tidings." 

JJWhen, in a storm, the surge passes over the decks, and 
gives out a hollow and deathly sound, it is said, in Pomer- 
ania, to be a sign that the weather will be fair and good. 

♦ Miscellany. 

+ Chambers' Miscellany. 

t De Rerum Natnira. 

i Bottrell.— Traditions and Fireside Stories of West Cornwall. 

D Chronicles of the Monastery of Durham. 

•* Credulities, Past and Present, p. 64. 

++ Harper's Magazine, 1880. — " Saline Types." 

Xt Tenne.— Volkssagen aus Pommern, p. 347. 


Such omens have also been derived from animals. The 
storm-raisers, especially, as the dolphin, cat, halcyon, etc., 
were carefully watched for indications of coming changes. 
Birds, always the favorites of the augurs, furnished many 
omens. When, as the poet sings, — 

"The sea-birds, with portentous shriek, 
Flew fast to land," 

it was time for the fisherman to moor his boat. 

Irish fishermen in Tralee bay regard the presence of 
sea-gulls in great numbers as signs of herring shoals; *and 
we have already seen that the osprey and fishhawk were 
auspicious visitors. 

The albatross was a good omen to the ancient mariner. 

f "At length did cross an albatross, 
Thorough the fog it came. 
As if it had been a Christian soul. 
We hailed it in God's name." 

"And a good south wind sprung up behind. 
The albatross did follow." 

J The incident from Shelvocke's voyages, referred to in a 
previous chapter, is here given: "We- had not the sight of 
one fish of any kind since we were come to the southwest 
of the Straits of Lemaire, nor one sea-bird, except a discon- 
solate black albatross, who accompanied us several days, 
hovering about us as if he had lost himself, until Sam 
Huntley, my second officer, observed, in one of his melan- 
choly fits, that the bird was always hovering near us, and 
imagined, from its color, that it might be an ill-omen; and, 
being encouraged in his impression by the continued season 
of contrary weather, which had opposed us ever since we 
had got into these seas, he, after some fruitless attempts, 
shot the albatross." It is not unlucky always to catch an 
albatross. Says a sailor, speaking of one, — 

" No, we had no ill-luck after the bird's death. If you 
shoot one and kill him, j^ou may look out for squalls; but 
to catch him with a piece of fat pork and let him die on 
deck is a different think altogether, you know." 

I Pomeranians say that birds coming aboard at sea 

should not be chased or taken, for, as you lay hands on the 

birds, you will have to lay hands to the sails, in the storm 

that will come. 

* See Chapter VII. + Coleridge.— The Ancient Mariner. 

tShelvocke's Voyages (1719), q. by Low.— Sfarltime DiscoTery, H, p. 145. 
STenne.- Volkssagen aus Pommern, p. 349. 


Swallows and other land-birds also furnished omens. 
* Lloyd says: "By swallows lighting upon Pirrhus' tent, 
and on the masts of Marcus Antony's ship, sayling after 
Cleopatra to Egypt, the soothsayers did prognosticate that 
Pirrhus should be slain at Argos in Greece, and Marc 
Antoninus in Egypt." 

f Jal says Horticius Mancinus, a consul, conceived a bad 
idea of the result oif a coming battle, for a like reason. 
JShakspeare alludes to this superstition in "Antony and 

§ It is related that a cock on board of Rodney's flag-ship, 
in his victory in 1782, crowed at each broadside fired at the 
enemy, and this was deemed a happy omen by the seamen. 
At St. Domingo, it is said that the coop of a cock, kept on 
the poop of the " Superb," was destroyed by a shot. The 
bird at once mounted on the spanker-boom, and crowed at 
each broadside, until his perch was shot away, when he 
hopped about the deck unterrified by the din and carnage 
of baide. It was thought an omen of success. A cock on 
board one of the vessels at Fort Fisher crowed loud and 
often, and this, too, was taken as a good sig^. 

II Lloyd says Themistocles was warned of a victory over 
Xerxes by the crowing of a cock. The cock is a noted bird 
in folk-lore, and will crow at Ragnarok, at the last day. 

** Melville says there was, some years ago, a superstition 
that it was an ill omen for ravens to perch on the masts of 
a ship, at the cape of Good Hope. 

Many superstitions connected with animal omens have 
been related in previous chapters. Those concerning the 
hare and the cat were wide-spread. In England, Scotland, 
France and Austria, fishermen say it is an unlucky omen to 
meet them when going to the boats, except in the case 
where they preceded them to the boats. It was also an ill- 
omen in Preston-Pans, England, to meet a pig when on 
the way to the boats. 

tf An old work tells us the instinct of rats leaving a ship 
is because they cannot be dry in it. A writer in the " Ship- 
ping Gazette," in 1869, says: " It is a well-authenticated fact 

* Ptrataeems of Jerusalem, In Jones' Credulities, Chapter I. 

+ Glossaire Nautique.— Augure. 

+ ^ct IV Scene 10. 

§ Life of Rodney, in Jones' CreduUtlea, p. 64. 

B Diall of Dales. 

** Moby Dick. 

t+ Athenian Oracle. 


that rats have often been known to leave ships in harbor 
previous to their being lost at sea. Some of those wiseacres 
who. want to convince us against the evidence of our senses, 
will call this superstition." 

* Burnes says of the Mohammedan sailors of Sinde: 
" They are very superstitious; the sight of a crocodile below 
Hydrabad is an evil omen, which would never be forgotten." 

f Melville says men in a whaler, hearing sounds at night 
in the water, some said they were the souls of drowned men, 
others that they were mermaids. They were found to be 
seals, and were then declared ill omens; and on the loss of a 
boat's crew soon after, a Manx sailor declared that these 
cries were their spirits calling them. 

I The appearance of mermaids, as we have seen above, 
always portended disaster. In Brittany, the siren is called 
Marguerite mauvais-temps (bad-weather Margaret). They 

"When the siren doth commence to sing. 
Then the sailor must begin to weep." 

There are many ill-omened actions avoided by sailors, 
and others deemed fortunate, which are done by them to 
secure good luck. 

Chinese and Japanese junk sailors think it a good omen 
to cross the bows of a foreign vessel, and frequently give 
great trouble in crowded channels, and incur considerable 
danger, from this cause. 

Hawaiian fishermen deem it a bad omen if a fish-hook 
catch in the tail of a fish. 

Various interpretations of dreams have been recorded as 
-omens. § In England, to dream of a smooth sea is thought 
to indicate a good and prosperous voyage, but of a rough 
and boisterous sea, a stormy and unprofitable journey. 

To see a dolphin in your dreams, portends the loss of 
your lady-love, and to dream of drowning, was a sign of 
good luck. To dream of an anchor, the sign of hope, was 
always esteemed a happy omen. {| A dream of fish indi- 
cated rain, while one of wading or bathing in the sea was 
indicative of future bliss. 

Many places were thought ill-omened, and sailors hesi- 

• Travels into Bokhara, Vol. II, p. 347. 
+ Moby Dick. 

til. F. Sauvfe, in M^lusine, March, 1885. 

8 Grant.— Mysteries, p. 479. 

I Sazon Leechdoms, Wortcunnlng, etc. 


lated to visit them. Bab el Mandeb, at the mouth of the 
Red Sea, was one of these. * Says Moore, — 

" The vessel takes its mournful way, 
Like some ill-destined bark that steers 
In silence through the Gate of Tears." 

f Richardson says: " It received this name from the old 
Arabians, on account of the dangers of the navigation, and 
the number of shipwrecks by which it was distinguished." 

When first discovered, and for many years afterward, 
this bad character clung to the Cape of Good Hope, not- 
withstanding its change of name. 

t Voltaire says of another cape: "The Cape of the Caba 
Rumia, which is in our tongue, the Cape of the Wicked Chris- 
tian Woman; and it is a tradition among the Moors that 
Caba, the daughter of Count Julian, lies buried here, and they 
thought it ominous to be forced into that bay; for they 
never go in otherwise than by necessity." 

Such beliefs have doubtless given us many of our geo- 
graphical names, and the Devil may have been supposed to 
dwell in many of the places named after him. 

§ It is thought an ill-omen among Vancouver's-Jsland 
tribes for any- one to pronounce the name of a certain 
mountain, while passing it in a canoe. 

In 1799, a djerme named L'ltalie, during the time of 
war in the Mediterranean, ran ashore in the Nile, with her 
load of prisoners and wounded, and, being attacked by the 
Arabs, was blown up by her captain. Napier took her loss 
as a bad omen for Italy's cause. 

It was thought by the soldiers of Ptolemy Soter's army 
a bad omen when they found an anchor in a marsh, but he 
deemed it a good one. 

II Lichtenstein tiells us that the king of the Koosa Kaffirs 
broke off a piece of the anchor of a strafided ship. He soon 
after died, and the natives ever afterward saluted the anchor, 
and thought it an ill omen to touch it. 

Auguries were in antiquity common alike to seamen and 
landsmen. Astrological indications have often influenced 
the lot of the mariner, not only in antiquity, but, as we shall 
see, in later days. Seamen frequently consulted the augurs, 


+ Notes to Moore's Poems. 

t General History. See also Don Quixote, Chapter XLL 

8 Farrar.— Primitive Customs. 

• Travels In South Africa. 


diviners and sibyls, without whose advice no event of im- 
portance was undertaken. Soothsayers attended the armies 
and fleets, carefully watching every omen for indications of 
success or defeat. Augurs carefully inspected the entrails 
of the victims sacrificed, and noted each sign, from the mur- 
mur of a stream or the flight of a bird, to an eclipse of the 
sun or moon. 

* Plutarch says, " The murmuring of a wave or a bird, or 
the driving of a thin cloud, is a sign to pilot of a stormy 
heaven and troubled sea." 

He also says the Melians cast away their ships in obedi- 
ence to an oracle, and that the Pelasgi often settled where 
their ships had been wrecked, deeming it an augury of their 
success. A seal designated the site of Phocea (seal town). 

In later times, when there were no oracles, augurs or 
soothsayers to consult, the astrologers and sorcerers took 
their places, and even in modern times, weather-prophets 
receive considerable attention from mariners. 

f Metellus tells of a woman who consulted a sorceress as 
to the fate of her son at sea. Melted wax was poured into 
a vessel of water, and assumed the form of a ship with a 
man floating beside it, indicating that the absent sailor was 

J Lodge speaks of a " Divell who persuades the merchant 
not to traffique because it is given him in his nativitie to 
have losse by sea." 

§ Falero, the Spanish astronomer, refused to accompany 
Magellan on his voyage around the world, saying that his 
calculations had made him doubtful of the result. 

Lily, the astrologer, is said to have predicted many dis- 
asters at sea. 

11 Old Norse chronicles inform us that Thorold, on a voy- 
age to Iceland, determined the site of his future colony, by 
throwing overboard two wooden columns of a temple of the 
gods, landing where they were carried by the current. 

** P8re Dan tells us how Barbary corsairs augured of vic- 
tory or defeat, before engaging in battle. A man took an 
arrow in either hand, calling the one Christian, the other 
Moslem. The clerk of the ship then performed a certain 

* " Socrates' Itemon," in Morals, Goodwin's Trans. 
+ De Dils Sanagitarum (1580). 
t Incarnate Devils (1596). 
S Goodrich.— Man upon the Sea, p. 212. 

a trwjuriuii. — juuu upvix iiuc oca, p. iiLii. 

lErbryga Saga.— MaUet, Northern Antiquities, p. 518. 
•* History of Barbary, In Jal, Glossaire Nautique. 


ceremony, and read an invocation, when, it was said, the 
arrows approached each other, and continued fighting until 
one dropped down, and thus augured the defeat of one 

* Wright tells of a certain fortune-teller, Alice West, who, 
in 1613, had great repute, "And saylers' wives came ordina- 
rily to her whilest shee lived in Saint Katherine's, to know 
when their husbands would come home." 

f Aubrey says an English me.rchant consulted a Barbary 
wizard concerning his ships at sea, and the latter assured 
him of their safety, by showing him in his hand a ship under 
full sail. 

J A work by John Gadbury alludes to the use of astro- 
logical figfures to predict the voj-ages of ships from English 
ports. He claimed that, in one instance, at least, the pre- 
diction was verified, the ship having suffered disaster. In 
another case, he claimed a fortunate result, as predicted. 
This was indicated, he says, in this manner: "As, indeed, 
under so auspicious a position of heaven, it had been strange 
if she had missed so to have done; for herein you see Jupiter 
in the ascendant, in sextile aspect of the sun, and the. moon, 
who is lady of the horoscope, and governor of the hour in 
which she weighs anchor, is appl3'ing ad Trinum Veneris. 

In 17 1 2, Whiston, the English astronomer, had predicted 
the destruction of the world, on the appearance of a certain 
comet. It was so implicitly believed that the captain of a 
Dutch ship, off London Docks, threw his powder into the 
Thames, to keep it from exploding. 

§ An odd instance of the so-called power of prophecy is 
told. A certain ship, the Xanthe, was to sail from an Eng- 
lish port on an excursion on a certain day, and, in order to 
keep servants from going in her, a storm was advertised to 
befall her, — and actually occurred! 

II In a modern Greek tale, sailors' wives sit on the strand 
and throw stones in the water, auguring of their husband's 
return by the wavelets thus created. 

A certain Canadian weather-prophet, Wiggins, predicted 
a great storm on a certain day in 1882, which he said would 
destroy ships at sea. A New York newspaper says: " Cap- 
tain Parsons, of the ship John R. Bergen, which lies at the 

*01d English Tract. 

+ Miscellanies (1696). , . ^, ,^ „ , „^ 

tNauticmn Astrologicum (1710), In Brand, Popular Antiquity, Vol. ni, p. 

8 (Jrant.— Mysteries, p. .'47. 
1 Folk-lore Kecord (1879). 


dock in Jersey City, had been trying to ship men for three 
days, and was unable to get a crew on board. He attributed 
his failure to the superstition of sailors, and their fear of 
putting 'to sea before the term of Wiggins' predicted storm 
had passed." 

* Drake says no ship of the Gloucester fishing fleet would 
then put to sea, although the loss was great. The same 
author says of a celebrated Salem witch, Moll Pitcher, who 
lived in 175 2-1 800, "The common sailor and the master, the 
cabin-boy and the owner, equally resorted to her humble 
abode to know the luck of a voyage. It is asserted that 
many a vessel has been deserted when on the eve of sailing, 
as a consequence of Moll's unlucky vaticination." 

We also learn that in the Shetland Islands, even to this 
day, f " Spey wives and dealers in charms and incantations 
Still ply a roaring trade. There are drunken old hags in 
Lerwick itself who earn their livelihood by imposing upon 
the credulity of ignorant sailors and silly servant-girls." 

" Wraiths and portent receive implicit credence. Many of 
the survivors of the great storm of 20th July, 1881, assert 
that they owed their safety to the warnings they had re- 
ceived. A woman washing her husband's clothes in a burn 
sees his trousers fill with water, and infers from that an 
intimation of his approaching death." 

To insure luck, not only were sacrifices and prayers 
made, but various charms have been used by seafaring men 
to insure them safe voyages, or a plentiful supply of fish. 

Runes were used by the old Norse sailors for this pur- 
pose,J and have been described in a previous chapter. Run- 
hofdi was their inventor, and they were engraved on oar, 
rudder or ship. 

Such charms to control the storm-spirit were known in 
antiquity. § Assyrian fragments, recently deciphered, contain 
charms for controlling the seven evil storm spirits. Greek 
sailors used formulae for invoking the winds, called Anemo- 
Kostai. One is still extant, composed by Simonides. In- 
scriptions of a votive character were written on the ships 
themselves, or on the sails. || Plutarch says, " Like those 
ships that have inscribed on them 'a prosperous voyage,' 'a 
protecting providence,' or ' preservation against danger,' 

* Legends of New England, p. 243. 
+ Good Word0885. 

* See Chapter ni. 

i Eecords of the Past. 

iMorals. — Goodwin's Translation. 


and yet, for all that, endure storms, and are miserably 
shattered and overturned." 

* Ships in the middle-ages carried such votive sentences, 
painted or engraved on a tablet which was affixed^ to the 
poop, just as the name of the ship is now placed in mer- 
chant vessels. This was called the "Dieu Conduit "(God 

Instead of these inscriptions, some figure or letter, or 
symbolic representation, was often substituted for it. f On 
the sails of Egyptian vessels, as depicted on the monuments, 
are seen painted representations of the sacred Ibis, or Vult- 
ure, and on the prow, as well as on the rudder, were the 
sacred lotus and eye. 

The eye is still painted on the prows of Chinese junks, 
although it is, as they allege, for the ship to see her way by. 
" No have eye, how can see ? no can see, how can sabee ? " 
was the well-known response of a junk captain to a sneer- 
ing " Fanqwei," who asked him the reason of its existence. 

The cross, or a relic of it, was one of the most popular 
charms at sea. St. Helena, as we have seen,J calmed the 
angry Adriatic, by throwing in a piece of it. Portuguese 
and Spanish sailors used to carry with them small crosses or 
rosaries, that had been blessed by the priests, as charms 
against storms and disasters. A cross-bun was taken to 
sea by Sunderland fishermen, and one version of the Flying 
Dutchman's tale accounts his delivery as affected by a 
return to him of the cross, on which he had sworn. 

§ Holy water, as we have seen, was also effectual as a 
charm. According to a French authority, St. Vincent 
calmed an angry sea with it. 

Portuguese sailors called these crosses, relics, etc. 
carried by them to sea as charms, by the name of feti^ao. 
and the name fetish is since given to charms of this nat- 
ure, supposed to influence fate or the weather. These 
fetishes are common among primitive people, and are 
often used to control the elements. Du Chaillu says 
African tribes use a fetish to appease Noumba, who dwells 
in the ocean. 

Relics of the saints were also powerful -as charms. Be- 
sides the numerous instances met with previously in these 

♦ JaL — Glossaire Nautique. Aubin. — Dictionnaire de la Marine. 
+ Wilkinson. — Manners and Customs of the Egyptians. 

t See Chapter II. 
jSec Chapter III. 





pages, we learn that *Turketal, a famous Anglo-Saxon 
chancellor, had a thumb of St. Bartholomew, warranted to 
preserve him from storms and tempests. Although it was 
thought that the presence of a dead body on shipboard 
would raise a gale, there was yet a belief in the efficacy of 
human charms, and it frequently occurred that a dead man's 
hand and other human relics were carried to sea, as charms 
against shipwreck. 

Animal charms were of the same class, and were more 
frequently' used, f Pliny says the skin of a sea-calf was a 
protection against lightning, and | Augustus is said to have 
worn one for this reason. § Esquimaux fasten a seal skin 
to the prows of their canoes, as a charm against bad weather 
and storms. Foxes tails and eagles' beaks served equally 
well. In an Esquimaux tale, an old woman gives a man a 
charm, made of a merganser's skin, which, when nailed to 
the prow of his boat, causes it to fly swiftly over the waves. 
In another tale, a gull's wing aids a man to raise a spell, by 
which a calm is brought about. 

Each feather picked up during the wren hunt on the Isle 
of Man, was a charm against wreck and disaster. 

I Sea shells were popular charms among the Indians of 
our own coast, and Negroes of the gold coast wear fetishes, 
consisting of a bag of shells as large as a hen's egg, which 
they believe brings them luck, and keeps them from storms 
at sea. The eyes of cuttle-fish, in Peru, and whales and 
sharks' teeth, in Fiji, were equally efficient charms. Fish 
charms were used by Columbia River Indians. 

** Two bones found in the head of a fish, the Scisena 
Aquila, were powerful charms with the Romans, and, if 
given or loaned, not sold, were of great virtue in storms. 

Fish amulets were very common during the middle 
ages. These were stones having a fish engraved upon 
them, and bearing generally the word Ichthus (fish), signifj'- 
ing the Savior. Sometimes the reverse bore the words, 
" May'st thou save us." These were especially powerful 
against shipwreck. They were denounced by the fathers of 
the Church, the Council of Laodicea (366) prohibiting 
clergymen from wearing them, and a later council (in 721), 

* Turner. — Angrlo-Sazons. 

+ Natural History, Bk. II, ch. 56. 

t Suetonius.— Octavlus. ch. 90. 

! Rink.— Traditions of the Esquimaux. 

I Tyler.— Primitive Culture, V ol. I. 

*• Jones.— Oedulltiee, p. 1S6. 


interdicted their use entirely. A recent traveler says they 
are still seen and used as charms in parts of Bosnia. 

* Women in Berlin often carry a fish-scale, as a charm, 
in their purses. 

f An odd charm for the toothache was 

"An eel, a spring-back, 
True indeed — true, in sooth, in sooth. 
You must eat the head - 

Of said spring-back." 

J Reginald Scot says a bone from the carp's head 
stanches blood. 

An old fish amulet has engraved on it the bark of St. 
Peter, sailing over a fish (Leviathan, or Satan) with doves 
(the faithful) perched on mast and stem. 

In a Scotch invocation of the fifteenth century we read, 

" In holy kirk, my haip is maist. 
That holy schip." 

A stone with a ship engraved on it was a favorite charm 
in .Scotland, during the middle ages, against shipwreck. 

§ Aleuts made a powerful charm, by wearing a belt of sea 
weed, in magic knots. A pebble thrown up by the sea was 
also a marvelous charm, whose power no animal could 

A widespread superstition has for centuries prevailed 
concerning the caul — the thin membrane enveloping the 
heads of some new-born children, and it was regarded 
as a fortunate omen to the possessor, to be carefully pre- 
served, and was thought to indicate by its condition the 
health of the wearer. The old dramatists give examples of 
this belief. H Face says to Dapper; 

"Ye were born with a caul o' your head "j 

and another speaker has it, — 

**" Were we not born with cauls upon our heads? 
Thinkest thou, Chichon, to come off twice a-row 
Thus rarely from such dangerous adventures?" 

• Blind.— Contemporary Eertew, August, 1882. 

+Shortland. — New Zealand. 

i Discovery of Witchcraft., 

£ Bancroft.— Native Races, Vol. Ill, p. 144. 

IB. Jonson.— Alchemist, 1610. 

•»Dl«by.— Elvira, In Brand, lH, US. 


Mariners- have likewise preserved the tradition of its 
efficacy as a charm and preventive against drowning and 
shipwreck. The first notice we have of it in this connection 
is in a rondeau by Claude de Malleville (1797). *It has been 
long used as a charm against drowning in Iceland, where it 
is called a Fylgia, ox tutelary spirit, part of the soul being 
thought to abide in it. fin Scotland, it is called a Silly- 
hoo, or Hally-how. Scotch fishermen and sailors implicitly 
believe in its efficacy. "Many an emigrant has gone to the_ 
possessor of such a powerful charm, got a nail's breadth of 
it, sewed it with all care into what was looked upon as a 
safe part of the clothes, and wore it during the voyage, in 
the full belief that the ship was safe from wreck, and would 
have a prosperous voj-age." 

JMarryat alludes to the superstition: "A sailor here (in 
Shetland) passes off a diamond for a caul, to avoid being 
robbed of it." §He tells also of a sailor who has a caul 
sewed up in his canvas trousers, which he values at twenty 
pounds. The dominie calls it a vulgar errbr that it would 
save from drowning, but receives the sage response, "A 
vulgar error saving from Davy Jones' locker is as good as 

11 In an old English will of 1658, Sir John Offley leaves a 
caul as a valuable legacy. They are frequently advertised 
for sale in English papers. **One reads; "To the gentle- 
men of the navy, and others going long voyages, at sea. 
To be disposed of, a child's caul, worth twenty g^uineas." 
ff Another: "To persons going to sea, a child's caul, in a 
perfect state, to be sold cheap." J| Another advertiser an- 
nounces his caul as "having been afloat with its late owner 
forty years, through all the perils of a seaman's life, and 
the owner died at last in his bed, at his place of birth." 

Besides these, there were notices of cauls for sale in the 
London Times, February 20, 1813, and one in the Western 
Daily News, of Plymouth, February 9, 1867, offering one 
for five guineas,' and three in the Liverpool Mercury, in 
1873, ranging in price from thirty shillings to four guineas.§§ 

•Thorpe.— Northern Mythology, I, 111. 

+ Gregor.— Folk-lore of Scotland. 

t Phantom Ship. 

§ Jacob Faithful. 

I Brand.— Popular Antiquities, III, p. 114, note. 

*♦ London Morning Post, August 25, 1779. Jones, p. 113. 

++ London Times, February 2L 1813. Jones, 112. 

U London Times, May 8, 1848. Jones, p. 112. 

% Jones. — Credulities, p. 112. 


I saw a notice in the Chicago Times, of November, 1883, 
of an advertisement of a caul for sale, taken from an Eng- 
lish paper. 

* Sir Hugh J. Rose says: "Ship captains coming into* 
Cadiz harbor, I have found, sometimes preserve a child's 
caul on board, as a charm against shipwreck." 

f It' was customary, says Gibbons, among mariners of the 
south of Europe a century ago, to suspend a child's caul in 
the, cabin of a ship to save her from sinking, and these 
curious membranes were much sought after by credulous 

Coral was long thought efficacious as a charm. J Isidore 
of Seville says it is a charm against lightning and hail. It 
was also an amulet against fascination, and was thought to 
turn pale when the wearer was sick. 

Ovid says it will stop bleeding. Orpheus says, — 

"The coral, too, in Perseus' story named. 
Against the scorpion is of might proclaimed, " 

alluding to a superstition that it counteracted the poison of 
a scorpion's sting; and also to Ovid's story that it was red- 
dened by the blood of the Gorgon Medusa's head, shed by 

Lucullus says it exhales a moist odor, that preserved any- 
one against lightning. 

Another old writer says it is soft when it is first gathered, 
hardening gradually; and Reginald Scot tells us, § " The 
corall preserveth such as beare it from fascination or be- 
witching, and in this respect they are hanged' about chil- 
dren's necks. But from whence that superstition is derived, 
and who invented the lie, I know not, but I see how readie 
the people are to give credit thereunto by the multitude of 
coralls that waie employed." 

I The Romans entertained this superstition, that coral 
protected a child from the effects of the evil eye. Ferdi- 
nand I. of Naples wore such a charm, and used to point it 
toward anyone supposed to be noxious. Many Neapoli- 
tans still believe it will turn pale when the wearer is ill. 

** Another old English writer asserts that it stops bleed- 
ing at the nose, and checks dysentery. 

* Spain. 

+ Boxing the Compass (1883). 

t Jones. — Credulities. 

SDiscoverie of Witchcraft (1580). 

I Jones. — Broad, Broad Ocean, p. 145. 

•* C. Leonardl.— Speculum Lapidarum (1717). 


Amber was a favorite amulet in ancient times. * Amber 
necklaces are enumerated by St. Eloi, in the seventh cent- 
ury, as remains of heathen superstition. 

f In Iceland, a stone called the oskastein (wishing-stone) 
is used by fishermen at sea. It is obtained by marking a 
raven's egg, three da3's before hatching, seething it in water, 
and replacing it under the bird. When the brood hatches, 
the stone is found in the egg. 

J An old work quoted by Jones tells us that "a wpod- 
pecker and a sea-dragon under its feet, on the stone den- 
trites," was a good charm to open locks or tame wild beasts, 
and that " a quail and a sea-tench, engraved in a gem, would 
render one invisible." 

That well-known charm, the horseshoe, has long been a 
favorite with the mariner. § They are often nailed to the 
masts of the boats of western England, and are occasionally 
seen among the fishing-boats on our own coasts. 

II They were regarded as a great security in Scotland, and 
were thought better if from a " wraith horse " — the fabled 
progeny of a water-stallion. ** In Pomerania, a horseshoe 
or half a nail in the deck, forward of the mainmast, will 
protect from lightning. 

ff Thatcher says they were used by sailors in 182 1. 
Jl Cheever says of the sailor, about that time, " He still in- 
sists that the horseshoe shall be nailed to the foremast, as a 
protection against the evil one." Rockwell recotds their 
occasional use in 1841. 

§§ Bunches of garlic are hung about Greek and Turkish 
vessels, as charms against storms, or the evil eye, and laurel 
as a charm against lightning. Tiberius Caesar is said to 
have worn a chaplet of laurel, for this reason. 

Cornish fishermen keep bits of sea-weed, " lady's tree," 
in their houses, as charms. 

III A turf from the churchyard was thought, in Iceland, a 
sure preventive of sea-sickness. 

** Scotch fishermen passed their boats through a bight of 
the halyards to counteract the evil effects of witchcraft. 

* Jones.— Credulities, p. 170. 

■f Maurer. — Islandische Sagen. I, 3. 

tThe Magick of Kiran, King of Persia, and Harpocration (1685). 

I Folk-lore Record, Vol. HI. 
IGregor. — Scotch Folk-lore. 

**Tenne. — Volkssagen a\is Pommern, p. 347. 
■H Superstitions (1821). 
« Sea and Sailor (1826). 
65 Jones.— Credulities. 

II Maurer.— Islandische Sagen. *** Gregor.— Folk-lore of Scotland. 



Galway fishermen use charms to prevent drowning. They 
are of various objects, hung in a bag about the neck, — there 
often being as many as six in one bag.' 

Lord Bacon said a man might be safe at sea, if he only 
wore a planet ring. 

* Meg Merrilies gave the boatswain a charm, written on 
a parchment, carried in a bag about his neck, which would 
save his ship from destruction. 

f Under the keel of an old Spanish ship, whose wreck 
was found in the Orkney^, in i8 — , was a coin, dated i6i8, 
wrapped in canvas, and evidently placed there as a charm. 

English fishermen in many localities, when they wound 
the hand with a fish-hook, carefully preserve the latter from 
rust, as a charm to cure the hand. 


J Chinese have charms of strips of red cloth on the rud- 
der and sails, and pieces of red paper with characters or 
sentences on them, are pasted on each thwart and seat in 
the boats. Gilt-paper images of boats and ships are placed 
near the compass as charms. 

Old pieces of nets are hung about the junks to catch spir- 
its, and priests are supposed to use them also for this pur- 

Images were early placed on the prows or poops of ships, 
and were at first, as we have said, of a sacred nature. 
Phoenician vessels carried representations of the Pataikoi, 
or Cabiri, and Greek vessels bore the images of their pro- 

» Sir Walter Scott.— Guy Mannerlng. 
i Notes and Queries 
* Gray. — Chinese. 


tecting gods. * Early Egyptian sculptures show us vessels 
carrying at their prows and sterns the sacred ram, or the 
Ibis head. 

f Ovid says, " The waves dash against the figures of the 
deities," and names Minerva (Athene) as the protecting or 
tutelary goddess of his ship, which bore her image on the 
poop. I Paul's ship had Castor's image on it. 

§ Lucan says, — 

" No golden gods protect the shining prow," 

and the Romans always carried their Lares, or tutelary gods, 
to sea with them, and finally affixed them to some part of 
the poop, naming them TutelcE. In Lucan's description of 
a great ship, there are said to be niches there, reserved for 
the gods. This custom of carrying the images on the poop 
deck doubtless made it more sacred, as it is to this day re- 
served on all ships for the use of officers and passengers. 
On Chinese junks a similar reason has made the proiv the 
post of honor. 

These images were replaced in the middle ages by those 
of the saints, for whom the ships were named. In addition, 
streamers and pennants carrying the same name, were also 

The axe-like prow of the Venetian gondolas is the shining 
blade of St. Theodore, their patron saint. 

II Edward III. of England embarked, in 1350, on board 
the Thomas, and an image of that saint was sent with him, 
to insure protection. A figure of the Virgin, captured on 
board a Spanish ship, was sent to the same monarch, in' 

** Da Gama, when asked by the Zamorin of Calicut to 
give him the golden image of the Virgin which his ship car- 
ried, answered " that the image was not of gold, but ol 
wood gilded; but, nevertheless, as it had preser\'ed him a( 
sea, he desired to be excused from parting with it." 1 

St. Francis Xavier found in his da)"- (1560) images i' 
Chinese junks, where meat and drink was placed before 
them, and incense burned. \\ Images of Tienhow are st .1 
carried" in these junks, and on the shrines are written thhje 

* DUmlchen.— Die flotte einer Konige iEgyptiens (1880). 

+ Fasti. 

t Acts XXXVIII, 7. 

§ Pharsalia. — Kowe's Translation. 

IJones.— Credulities, p. 59. 

»* Jones.— Credulities, p. 60. 

tt Jones. — Credulities. 


sentences: "Wherever this ship may sail, O Goddess, grant 
her a prosperous voyage," " Enable us by trading to acquire 
wealth," "When on the wide water, continue, O Goddess, 
to show us thy favor." 

Norse ships carried images of wood shaped like dragons, 
serpents, etc., on their prows, and the law prescribing their 
removal to prevent frightening the landvaettir, has already 
been alluded to. 

We read the following remarkable legend of these im- 

* " Thorir had a large ship built in the wood, and prayed 
Bishop Sigurd to hallow it, and he did. Thereafter, Tho- 
rin fared out to Iceland, and caused the ship to be, broken 
up, when he grew weary of sailing, but the beaks of the 
ship he had set up over his outer door, and they were there 
long afterward, and were so full of weather-wisdom, that 
the one whistled before a south wind, and the other before 
a north wind." 

The belief of the sailor and the fisherman in these many 
oniens, lucky signs, auguries, etc., are survivals of ancient 
superstitions — reminiscences of the many impositions prac- 
ticed on credulous people by Chaldean magicians and 
astrologers, Greek and Roman augers, mediaeval sorcerers, 
and cunning charlatans of all ages. 

They are, for the most part, fragments of a system of 
signs and tokens, by which shrewd men pretended to guess 
the future. Such beliefs still survive in nearly every land, 
among the mass of the people. Every collection of folk- 
lore will be found full of them. Beliefs in regard to luck 
are equally ancient in their origin. Certain persons or ani- 
mals were deemed unlucky, because of their supposed influ- 
ence on the weather or good fortune of the believer, gener- 
ally through some implied connection with evil spirits. 
Certain days were unfortunate, because of their supposed 
connection with some evil influence, either in a conjunction 
of planets, or by the supposed diabolical character of the 
day itself, derived from deeds done in it, or from the deity 
from which it was named. Certain places were alike 
unlucky because they were thought to be the abode of evil 
spirits. Such beliefs are common to savage, uncivilized and 
uneducated mi ads, and are also shared by many persons of 
considerable i^ltelligence. 

» Grettir Sagf -Morris and Magnusson, p. 125. 



" The burying waters close around their head. 
They sink! forever numbered with the dead." 

Falcotur. — The Shipwreck, Canto III. 

' The second night, when the new moon set. 
O'er the merry sea we flew. 
The cockle-shell our trusty bark 
Out sails of the green sea-rue. " 


>HERE are many superstitions 

' r^ .^ » .r'-^K. HUH connected with drowning, and 

t^X ^^m*^^& #hP with drowned bodies. Death 

'* by drowning was particularly 

abhorred in antiquity, when it 
was thought that fire must burn 
the bodj' or earth cover it, and when 
the sea was particularly feared and 
detested by many, because it swal- 
lowed up the bodies of those perish- 
ing therein. As this was the abode 
of Typhon, and the quencher of the 
beneficent sun, and also, early in the 
middle ages, the purgatory of souls, 
it was considered especially unfortu- 
nate to be buried in it. This idea is manifested 
in the traditions of the proximity of the sea- 
bottom to Hades, of St. Brandan's burning 
islands, and in the name, still extant, of Davj' Jones' locker 
at the bottom of the sea. 

Sometimes, in antiquity, a badge was tied or fastened to 
the body, so as to identify it if found — very much as mod- 
ern sailors tattoo the body. 

There was in antiquity, and during the middle ages, an 
almost universal belief that devils and demons abode at the 
bottom of the sea, and lay in wait for people, and some- 
times dragged them down. These beliefs have been fully 



discussed in a preceding chapter.* Water-spirits, mermaids, 
and such folk, were also thought to seize people, or en- 
tice them below. This subject has also been treated at 
length. f 

These ideas led to a belief that the spirits of the 
drowned still inhabit the waters after their death. Jin Brit- 
tany, these spirits are called criers, and they returned in the 
shape of birds. Teutonic nations believed there was a land 
at the bottom of the sea, where the spirits of the drowned 
abode. Burmese say a demon, Ruuhu, devours the drowned. 
In Russian belief Rusalkas,§ or water- sprites, are the spirits 
of drowned people. 

Sometimes, however, their end was not so lamentable. 
In Mohammedan belief, drowned persons are martyrs. In 
Mexican legend, they went to the greatest of three heavens, 
and in Greenland traditions, they reside in the lower, or 
ocean heaven. Brazilian Indians said the souls of drowned 
persons lived apart from the rest; and, in German belief, 
they haunt rivers and wells. 

I Widows in Matamba, Africa, duck themselves to drown 
their husbands' ghosts, which thereafter live on the ocean. 

** The prevalent idea that demons lurked in the depths, to 
entrap the unwary bather, led to a further widespread super- 
stition that it was unsafe to attempt to save the life of a 
drowning man. ff "The belief that some harm is sure to 
come to him who saves the life of a drowning man is unin- 
telligible, until it is regarded as a case of survival of 
culture. In the older form of the superstition, it is held 
that the rescuer will, sooner or later, be drowned himself; 
and thus we pass to the fetichistic interpretation of drown- 
ing as the seizing of the unfortunate person by the water- 
spirit or nixy, who is, naturally, angry at being despoiled of 
his victim, and henceforth bears a special grudge against 
the bold mortal who has thus dared to frustrate him." 

It is also probable that the inhumanity or cruel policy of 
wreckers, who believe that "dead men tell no tales," as- 
sisted the growth of these ideas. 

These fears of evil results from aiding drowning people 
prevailed in many parts of Great Britain. Sir Walter 

♦See Chapter II. 

+ See Chapter IV. 

t L. F. Sauvfe, in Melusine, February, 1885. 

S Ralstx>n.— Songs of the Russian People. 

I Tylor.— Primitive Culture, Vol. II, p. 28. 

•* Jones.— Credulities, pp. 67, 658. 

•tt Flake.— Myths and Myth-Makers, p. 215. 


Scott says they were, in his day, in full force in Shetland 
and in the Orkneys. Bryce, the pedlar, says, in the 
"Pirate": "To fling a drowning man a plank may be the 
part of a Christian, but I say, keep hands off him, if ye 
wad live and thrive free frae his danger." "Are ye mad! 
You that have lived sae lang in Zetland, to risk the saving 
of a drowning man ? Wat ye not if you bring him to life 
again he will be sure to do you some capital injury." 

* So in Scotland. Sailors and fishermen in many Scotch 
villages feared to pick up the body of a drowned person on 
the beach, believing that the one so doing would meet with 
death in the same manner. 

English seamen fear to pick up any object on the coast, 
washed ashore from a wreck, for fear lest the drowned 
owner may claim his property and them with it. f Scotch 
fishermen fear to go to sea in a boat from which persons 
have been drowned. 

I Some j'ears ago, a man fell overboard from a Russian 
ship in Leith docks. The crew tried to rescue him at first, 
but when they found that he would surely drown, they ran 
away, fearing to haul out the body. § Barry tells the fol- 
lowing: "A drunken man walked into the water and was 
drowned, no one trying to save him. On his clothing being 
afterward examined, no cross was found about his neck. 
He was declared by the villagers to be ' drowned because 
he had no cross on his neck.' It is generally believed here 
that you must wear a cross when you go to bathe." The 
cross here replaces the steel, supposed in Norse legend to 
deter a Nyck from approaching. - 

II A still more curious incident is related by EUrick: "I 
myself saw a fellow fall overboard and drown, after a long 
struggle, during which neither the crew of the vessel nor 
his comrades made the slightest efforts to save him. While 
he was battling against the angry waves, the crew stood 
quite composedly on deck, and said in chorus, 'Jack! Jack! 
give in! Dost thou not see that it pleases God! ' " 

** Similar things are recorded of Bohemian fishermen, in 
1864, who say that "Waterman" will drown them, and take 

♦Grant.— Mj-steries of All Nations, p. 396. 

tjones. — Credulities, p. 67. 

t Grant.— Mysteries, p. 396. 

8 Ivan at Home (18701. 

I Sketches of Austria, in Jones* Credulities, p. 63. 

** J. V. Grohman.— Aberglauben und GebrBuch aus BShmen, p. 12. 


away their luck in fishing. They also pray on the river- 
bank, and offer wax candles and bread. 

The Chinese have a repugnance toward aiding drowning 
men. They say the soul of a drowned person is in a kind 
of ocean purgatory, whence it is released only by finding 
some one to take its place. * In a Chinese tale, " The Fish- 
erman and his Friend," the hero refuses to aid a woman 
who is drowning, for this reason. 

fThe Hong Kong authorities were obliged to insert a 
clause in junk charters, requiring them to save life, if the 
necessity occurred. J Gray tells of many instances that 
came under his observation, where Chinese refused to aid 
drowning men, claiming that their spirits flitted along the 
water, demanding a sacrifice. Salt was thrown into the 
place where any one was saved from drowning, to appease 
their spirits. 

§ Hindoos would not save any one who fell into the 
sacred Ganges, but would help him to drown, if near by, 
and it was a sin to try to save yourself. 

II Kamtchatdales would not speak to a man rescued from 
drowning, take him into their houses, or give him food. 
** It was a sin to save a drowned man, a good deed to aid in 
drowning him. 

ff Koosa Kaffirs pelted them with stones, or else ran away 
from drowning men. Theal says they think people are 
drowned b}- spirits, and they would not try to save a boat's 
crew from death by drowning. 

Fijians used to eat those rescued from a watery grave. 
JJ Malay islanders will not save drowning men. 

Death b}' drowning having been so universally thought 
an undesirable end, we find charms for avoiding it used 
frequently, and have treated the subject of the caul, so 
commonly used for this end, as well as other charms used 
for the same purpose, at some length in the last chapter. 
Indians of Queen Charlotte's Sound used a fetish of fish- 
bone; and African tribes generally use such charms. These 
were especially worn by bathers, in the hope of keeping 
away the cramp. Various curious charms have been used 

* Giles.— Chinese Tales by Ping Sung Ling. 

t Black.— Folk-Medioiue, p. 28. 

t China. 

8 Ward.— Hindoos. VII, p. 318. 

\ Kraoheninnikow. -Voyage to Siberia, Part ILP- 1^ 

«Steller.— Kamtchatka, 2T4. 

ttUchtenstein.— South Africa, Vol. I, p. 259. 

ttBastian.- Mensch, Vol. in, p. 210. 


for this. Rings made of the nails or screws of a coffin were 
deemed especially efficacious for this purpose. Bacon says; 
"There are two things in use to prevent the cramp, viz., 
rings of sea-horse teeth, worn upon the finger, and fillets of 
green rushes tied about the calf of the leg, the thigh, etc., 
where the cramp usually comes." 

*Part of a will in the "Ordinary," by Wm. Cartwright, 

in 1651, has this clause, "I, Robert Monk, the of 

give to thee, Joan Pollock, my biggest cramp ring." 

These were considered more valuable after being blessed 
by a sovereign, and we have several notices of this ceremony 
in England, which was only discontinued by Edward VI. 

A manuscript of Cardinal Wiseman gives the formula 
for blessing these. Prayers used for the same purpose are 
given by Dr. Pegge.f 

I A writer of the time of Henry VIII. says, " The Kynge's 
majestic hath a gret helpe in this matter, in hallowinge ye 
crampe rynges, and so given without money or petition," 
" The Kynges of Englande doth halowe every yere cramp 
rynges, ye which rynges worne on one's fynger doth helpe 
them whych hath the crampe." 

The patella, or knee-bone, of a sheep, or even of a hu- 
man being, was also worn for the same purpose. § In 
Northamptonshire, England, shoes and stockings were 
placed in the form of a cross; and boys wore an eel-skin 
about the leg. 

Many hugged themselves with the delusion that they 
were not born to be drowned. Says Cicero: " He that is 
born at the rising of the dog-star cannot be drowned in the 

So Gonzales, in " Tempest," — 

" I have great comfort in this fellow, 
Methinks he hath no drowning mark upon him." 

And Proteus, in " Two Gentlemen of Verona," — 

"Go, go, begone, to save your ship from wreck 
Which cannot perish, having thee aboard, 
Being destin'd to a drier death on shore." 

The same idea is involved in the superstition that a ship 
would not be lost with a king on board, as related in the 
last chapter. 

* Brand.— Popular Antiquities. 

■tCurialia Miscellanea. 

t Andrew Boorde. in Brand. Popular Antiquities, Vol. Ill, p. 23u 

5 Brand.— Popular Antiquities, Vol. Ill, p. 325. 


We have also seen in a previous * chapter many instances 
of a belief in the appearance of the spirits of drowned per- 
sons. It is thought in many places that these apparitions 
are real, and these ghosts are frequently heard calling their 
names, especially near a scene of wreck, f In Cornwall, 
fishermen avoid a wreck in stormy weather, believing that 
ghosts haunt it. In Penrose, they are often heard "hailing 
'their own names " in the gale, and it is known as the " call- 
ing of the dead." Fishermen on the Norfolk coast say that 
when anyone is drowned, a voice is heard, portending a 
squall. A Cornish legend is told of a man who was walking 
on the sea-coast, when he heard a voice say, " The hour is 
come, but not the man." Soon after, a dark figure leaped 
over the cliff into the sea. 

l Lord Teignmouth records similar beliefs as existing in 
the parish of Ullsvang, in Norway: "A very natural belief 
that the voice of a person drowned is heard wailing amidst 
the storm, is apparently the only acknowleged remnant of 
ancieht superstition still lingering along the shores of the fiord. 

§ I have already chronicled the Danish belief that the spec- 
tres of drowned persons, called "Strand Varsler," promenade 
unconsecrated beaches. A peasant was seized by one of 
these, who would be carried to a church to be baptized, but 
he evaded the ghost. A woman, who took a ring from a 
dead body on the beach, was chased by a Strand Varsler. A 
similar belief is that in the "Gongers," ghosts of drowned 
persons, prevalent in Norway. We have seen many tradi- 
tions of islands, such as Poelsetta, Horum, Heligoland, 
Great Britain, etc., inhabited by the spirits of the drowned. 
At Sent, on the Breton coast, the skeletons of the drowned 
are said to promenade the beaches. We read in the "Gud- 
run Lay ": " Gloom arose, winds blew, and ever there came 
upon the winds a sound oJf grievous mourning and lamen- 
tation, for the drowned lay restless in their graves." 
' A certain South American tribe, if the body cannot be 
found, catch the soul, thus: "A line is stretched across the 
river, so that the soul shall not escape down the stream. A 
bag is set on the bank, distended, and near it some food. 
A feast is held there, and it is believed that the soul will 
come out to partake of it, and be caught.'' 

♦See Chapter Vin. 

+ Bottrell.— Traditions and Fireside Stories of West Cornwall (18T0). 

t Eemiuisoeuces (1S30). 

e See Chapter VIH. 


Fjjians say you should not bury a limb in the sea, or the 
body will surely follow it. 

It has also been widely believed that the bodies of the 
drowned may be found, by floating some object or other, — 
and that they would come to the surface at a certain speci- 
fied time. 

* Sir Thomas Bro\yne says it was believed in his time 
that the body would float on the ninth day, and he did not 
question the statement. He also says that women float face 
downward, a notion entertained by Plin}',! who said that 
they did so that they might hide their shame. Both aver 
that men's bodies float face upward. 

I Pigafetta, in his account of the voyage of Magellan, 
records that the bodies of Christians, when thrown overboard 
from the ships, floated face upward, toward heaven, while 
those of Mahommedans, on the contrary, were turned face 

It has been widely believed that the position of a drown- 
ed body would be indicated by floating a loaf of bread down 
stream, when it would stop over the spot where the body 
was. It was necessary to put in the loaf a little quicksilver, 
or, some said, a lighted taper. An old account of thus find- 
ing a body in Kennet river, near Hull, is given in the " Gen- 
tleman's Magazine": § "After diligent search had been made 
in the river for the child, to no purpose, a twopenn3' loaf, with 
a quantity of quicksilver put into it, was set floating from the 
place where the child, it was supposed, had fallen in, which 
steered its course down the river upward of half a mile, 
before a great number of spectators, when, the body hap- 
pening to lie on the contrary side of the river, the loaf sud- 
denly tacked about, and swam across the river, and gradu- 
ally sank near the child, when both the child and the 
loaf were brought up with grabbers ready for the pur- 

II Henderson says this was practiced near Durham, Eng- 
land, so late as i860. It was also believed that the body 
would float on the ninth day, when the gall-bladder would 
burst, and a cannon was often fired over the water for the 
purpose of breaking it. 

Ideas similar to these are held in many parts of England 

* Pseudoxica Epidenuca (1646). ' 
•tNatunal History. 

t GoodriatL— ilan upon the Sea, p. 228. 

I Vol. xs:s^-Jl, p. isgr 

Bi L/lk-lore of the Northern Countries of England, p. 60. 


and Scotland. * A wooden club is said to have served as 
well as the loaf, in Eton, f In Ireland, a body is said to 
have been found by the use of a bundle of floating straw, 
"with a paper containing certain characters written on it by 
the parish priest. 

I In France, loaves consecrated to St. Nicholas, with a 
lighted wax taper in them, were used for this purpose, and in 
§ Germany, a piece of bread, with the drowned person's 
name on it. A wooden bowl in St. George's church, on the 
Weser, is said to have served as well. In Bohemia,! a fresh 
cut loaf with a lighted taper in it was used. 

It is believed in many parts of America, that the body 
may be found by means similar to these. ** Sir James Alex- 
ander says: "The Indians imagine that, in the case of a 
"drowned body, its place may be discovered by floating a 
chip of cedar wood, which will stop and turn round at the 
exact spot. An instance occurred within my own knowledge, 
in the case of Mr. Lavery, of Kingston Mills, whose boat 
upset, and three persons were drowned, near Cedar Island, 
nor could the bodies be found until this experiment had 
been tried." 

ff A writer in " Notes and Queries " claims that it is a 
scientific fact that a loaf and quicksilver indicate the posi- 
tion of a body, as the weighted loaf is carried by the current 
just as the body is. 

JJ In Norwegian streams, those in search of a dead body 
row to and fro with a cock in the boat, who will crow when 
it is over the spot where the corpse lies. 

:§§ Near Samland, Prussia, the Rufen, or sound of a cer- 
tain bell, will cause the sea to give up its dead. 

In Java and China, a live sheep thrown into the water is 
thought to indicate the position of the body, by sinking 
near it. 

Many other superstitions connected with dead bodies 
have been related in preceding chapters. It was believed 
that they were potent storm-raisers on board ship, and it is 
still believed that their presence at sea bodes no good. 

♦Choice Notes, p. 41. 

+ Choice Notes, p. 4S. _ 

t Melusine, February 5, 1885. 

§ Kolk-lore Record, 1879. 

! Wuttke.— Beutsche Volksaherglaubwi, p. 239. 

"L'Acadle 0849), Vol. I, p. 19. 

++ J. Bailie, December, 1883. 

a Liebrecht, Zur Vblkskunde, p. 132. 

§§ Frischbier.^E^Tisslsohea Wbrterbuoh, in Meluslne, February 5, 1885. 



* Aubin says it was believed unlucky to bury a body at 
sea from the port side, only animals being thus treated. 

f Grant and Melville say it is held to be unlucky, on 
board merchant ships, to wear a dead man's effects until the 
voyage is over. But this does not hold true on board of 
our men-of-war, where the effects of a dead comrade bring 
high prices at the usual auction. 

The narrative of the loss of the " Wager " furnishes us 
with a remnant of antique beliefs in regard to unburied 
bodies. The crew of that vessel found the body of a sailor 
who had been murdered, and left unburied. "The body 
had never been buried, and to such neglect did the men now 
ascribe the storms which had lately afflicted them; nor 
would they rest until the remains of their comrade were 
placed beneath the earth." 

I Epes Sargent says it was believed in the middle ages 
that the compass-needle would not traverse, with a dead 
body in the same boat. § So Browne asserts that Eusebius 
Nierembergfius, a Spanish Jesuit, wrote that the human 
body was magnetic, and, if laid in a boat, and set adrift,' 
would go to the northward by its own attraction. 

This brings us naturally to the superstitions concerning 
the compass, and the loadstone. Besides dead bodies, there 
were many other substances which were thought to affect 
the quality of the magnet. 

Pliny, Ptolemy and Plutarch all say that garlic destroys 
its attractive powers, and the former asserts that a diamond 
or a needle dipped into mercury, had a similar effect on the 
loadstone. Gilbertus, a middle-age writer, declares, on the 
other hand, that a needle touched to a diamond would be- 
come magnetic. 

Various strange ideas have been entertained concerning 
the variation of the magnetic needle. When Columbus dis- 
covered that the needle changed its variation, and began to 
point to the eastward, his crew became terrified, thinking it 
portended great evils. || The Chinese declare that the 
needle, in the seventeenth centur3', pointed south, and that 
it has since reversed. 

** Browne says: " Now the cause of this variation may be 

* Dictionnairs de Jlarins (17021. 

+ Grant.— Mvsteries, p. 3St7. See also Dana, Two Years Before the Mast, Chap- 
ter VI. 

t Note to Rogers' Columbus. 

§ Vulgar Errors. 

IITylor,VoLI, p.375. 

'■'Sir Thomas Browne.— Pseudoxlca Epidemlca. 


the inequality of the earth variously disposed of, and differ- 
ently mixed with the sea." Local attraction, he says, "may 
proceed from mutations of the earth by subterranean fires, 
fiends, mineral spirits, or otherwise." 

This phenomenon of local attraction has given rise to 
many curious stories of loadstone mountains, rocks, etc. 
Pliny speaks of a loadstone mountain which attracts ships, 
and Serapion says boats in Ceylon were not nailed together, 
but sewed with thongs of leather, to prevent injury to them 
on approaching the loadstone mountain, as iron nails would 
would be drawn out and the boat fall to pieces. 

Middle-age writers continued and elaborated these 
legends. * The ship of the Third Calendar was endangered 
by being driven by adverse winds near this mountain, and 
was finally lost, all the nails being drawn out by the attrac- 
tion. El Kazwini and El Wardee again vouch for the 
wonderful story-teller, as they relate equally marvelous 
. things of the wonderful mountain, adding that shoals of dead 
fish are found near it. In Persian story, Aboul Foueris is 
wrecked upon a magnetic rock. 

f Ogier the Dane, in middle-age legend, sails with one 
thousand knights, and is wrecked by a storm. They take 
to the boats, and are again wrecked, being cast upon 
Avalon Island, by the attraction of the loadstone mountain 
or castle. J According to the Gudrun Lay, a fleet of Danes 
is mysteriously stopped at sea by the attraction of a. rock 
called Gyfers. 

§A poem written in the twelfth century by Henry of 
Valdeck, tells us that Duke Ernest, while sailing in the 
Kleber Meer, encountered there a rock named Magnes, and 
his ship was dragged down "among many a wreck of keels, 
whose masts stand like forests." 

Magnus Magnussen reported that his ship, during his 
voyage to discover Greenland, was stopped by a loadstone 
at the bottom of the sea, in deep water, and with a fresh 
breeze blowing. 

II That redoubtable traveler, Sir John Mandeville, tells 
us this tale: "In an isle clept Crues, ben schippes withouten 
nayles of iren, or bonds, for the rockes of the adamandes; 
for they be alle fulle there aboute in that sea, that it is 

* Lane.— Arabian Nights, I, pp. 161-207. 

+ Keary.— Outlines of Primitive Balief, p. 452. 

t Ludlow. — Popular Bpics of the Middle Ages, p. 221. 

iSH. Von Valdeofc— Herzog Ernest von Bayern's ErhOtung <Ed. 1858), p. 65. 

II Voiage and TravaJlle. 


marveyle to spaken of. And gif a schipp passed by the 
marches, and hadde either iren bandes or iren nayles, anon 
he sholde ben perishet. For the adamande of this kinde 
draws the iren to him; and so wolde it draw to him the 
schipp, because of the iren, that he sholde never departen 
fro it, ne never go thens." 

Cadamosto, the Venetian traveler, speaks of the load- 
stone mountain. 

The accounts of Pliny, Serapion and the Arabians place 
this mountain in the south, while Avalon and the other load- 
stone rocks of the northern legends were to the north. 

* Sir Thomas Browne, in discussing the variations of the 
needle, gives us the key to the origin of the whole myth, as 
f Tylor has observed. This variation was supposed to be 
caused by polar mountains, J men "ascribing thereto the 
cause of the needle's direction, and conceiving the afflux- 
ions from these mountains and rocks invite the lilly toward 
the north." That the mountain should be in the south 
accords with the Chinese idea that the needle points south. 
As these supposed mountains caused the needle to vary, 
the myth that mountains existed elsewhere that would 
attract iron to them would easily arise. 

The loadstone was often thought to possess other re- 
markable powers. Pliny says it would, if preserved in the 
salt of a remora, draw gold out of a well. § A small bit of 
loadstone used as a charm, in Scotland in 1699, was said to 
have saved a boat from sinking. 

II A magnet used by the English admiral Somers, and 
still preser\'ed by his descendants, ' is thought a charm 
against drowning. 

The loadstone was also thought a cure for the gout, if 
carried in the pocket. 

There are many superstitions connected with stones, 
some of which have been already referred to. ** An upright 
stone in lona Island is said to confer the power of steering 
well to anj- one who will stretch his arm along it. f f At 
Innesken, near Mayo Island, a stone is kept, which, as late 
as 1851, was brought out and importuned to bring wrecks 

♦Vulgar Errors, 11, p. 3. 

+ Prlinitive Culture, I, p. 374. 

t Browne. — Loc. cit. 

§ Folk-lore Eecord, 1875. 

I Jones. — Credulities, p. 160. 

"Jones. — Broad, Broad Ocean, p. 24S. 

+t Notes and Queries, February 7, 1852. 


along. It was cylindrical, and was carefully wrapped in 
flannel. * Massey says it was an image of Neevoungee, an 
ancient deity. *■ 

j It is said in Iceland, that if a stone be thrown into the 
sea, the waves arise, and ships will be lost. 

There are many nautical legends connected with bells. 
Sailors say that the bell of a sinking ship will toll as she 
goes down, even if it be firmly lashed in place. 

J In St. Leven churchyard (Cornwall) a bell is said to 
ring the half-hours in the grave of a Captain Wetherell, who 
died at sea. But those who go on purpose to hear it will 
meet with bad luck; and a sailor who heard eight bells 
strike, was lost at sea soon afterward, or, as the sailor-phrase 
still has it, " It was eight bells with him," that is, the end of 
his long life-watch. 

§ Fishermen near St. Monan's, Scotland, alleged, some 
few years ago, that the bell, hung on a tree near the sea, 
had a baneful effect on the fishing, and finally had it 

I There is a legend of Giltstone Rock, near Hartington, 
England. A slaver sailed at the sound of the Christmas 
bells, and was long absent, gaining great wealth by his 
nefarious occupation. On his return, as he entered with a 
fair wind, the bells again rang the Christmas chimes, when 
the wind suddenly changed, and the vessel was wrecked on 
the rock. 

Southey's ballad, "The Inchcape Bell," is well known. 
Sir Ralph, the Rover, removed the bell placed on the Inch- 
cape Rock by the good abbot, and was afterward wrecked 
on account of the absence of its warning tones. 

" But even in his dying fear 
One dreadful sound could the Rover hear, 
A sound as if with the Inchcape Bell 
The devil below was ringing his knell." 

Sunken bells like these are believed to sound in many 
parts of the world. **The maritime legend of Tintagel bells, 
still current in Cornwall, has been related. 

If Welsh stories are told of submerged bells in Lake 
Crumlyn, which are said to be rung by fairies. 

• Book of the Beginnings. 

t Powell and Magnussen, Icel. Legends. 

tBottrell.— Traditions and Fireside Stories of Cornwall, 

? Jones. — Credulities, p. 98. 
Jones. — Credulities. 
«See Chapter in. 
•ttSikes.— Bntiah Goblins and Welsh Folk-lore, p. 339. 


* A legend is also told of " St. Goven's Bell," in Pem- 
brokeshire. That saint lived in a cell in the rock near the 
coast, and a chapel was afterward built near the spot, with a 
bell in its open belfry. A pirate crew stole this bell, but a 
storm arose and wrecked their boat. The bell was mysteri- 
ously conveyed into the center of a stone, at the brink of a 
well near the chapel. It is still fabled to ring, when the stone 
is struck. 

Mariners say the sound of a submerged bell is often 
heard near Blackpool, England. So they are heard in pools 
near Crosmere, when storms agitate the surface, f A ves- 
sel carrying the bell of St. David's in Pembrokeshire sank 
with it, and its sound is still heard, according to local 

There is an abundance of stories of such sunken bells in 
various parts of Europe. There is hardly a lake or a pool 
in Germany and Austria, in which, it is said, these sounds 
are not heard generally at night. J In the Opferteich, near 
Moringen, they toll from 12 to i, and no fish can live therein. 
These are the bells of a Knight Templar's castle, sunk on 
account of the crimes of the order. A bell is said to lie in 
the Kahlebysee in Schleswick, which sank there, with the 
ship of the pirates, who were carrying it away. A set of 
bells was stolen one Easter morning from Newkirk.§ The 
robbers got to their ships with them, but at the call of the 
priest of their church, they sank to the bottom, carrying 
the ships with them, and are still heard every Easter morn- 
ing. Another of these stolen bells broke through the ice, 
and sank. 

II The legend of the Bells of St. Ouen has also been re- 

** At Cammarana, in south Italy, there is a legend that 
Saracens once pillaged the town and carried off a bell and 
an image of the Virgin. But the impious act caused them 
to lose their boat, and the bell sank, and is still heard to 
ring on the anniversary' of that day. 

f f The bell of Ivekoft Church, Sweden, sank, into a mo- 
rass when the church was burned, and is said to have tolled 
at night for many months, disturbing every one. Two fish- 

♦ Jones.— Credulities, p. 100. 

f Sikes.— Britisli Goblins and Welsh Folk-lore, p. 341. 

i Thorpe.— Northern Mythology, Vol. Ill, p. 118. 

SWolt.— Nederlandtsche Sagen. 

ISee Chapter in. 

*• Pitre. 

+t Jones.— Credulities, p. 98. 


ermen tried long to fish it up, but only succeeded by invok- 
ing the aid of the Virgin and St. Olaf. 

Sailors have of ten declared that bells could be heard from 
the submerged churches of Port Royal in the West Indies. 

There are other njiscella